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Running header: INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

Increasing Student Motivation:


Focusing on Gifted and Talented Students
Andrea M. Claire
St. Bonaventure University

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

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Abstract

Student motivation is something every teacher and parent should be vigilant of. Students who
are motivated to learn have higher success rates and go on to receive higher education. Gifted
education is a topic that is under high controversy in many states. Gifted students deserve the
same opportunities as all other students and this paper delves into the research focusing on
increasing gifted student motivation. Some may say that student motivation is the same across
the board, but gifted students respond differently to certain tactics of motivation. One of the
biggest differences is that gifted students have a high sense of intrinsic motivation; they have a
greater will to learn. Gifted students come to school with a high motivation to learn, this needs
to be encouraged and developed throughout their educational experience. Increasing student
motivation is of great importance, with gifted students motivation can make or break a students
educational experience. Providing opportunities for student choice, encouraging students to
learn, and challenging them will ensure that all of you gifted students succeed. Teachers must
remember that all of their students will learn differently and it is the teachers responsibility to
know their students. Every student is unique and deserves the opportunity to learn to their
strengths and learn from their weakness. With gifted students, these strengths are developed at
an early age and need to be fostered through education. Teachers should be using all of the
motivational techniques and influences to their advantage when working with gifted students
who have higher abilities.
Keywords: increasing student motivation, student learning, gifted students, motivation,
student interest

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION


Increasing Student Motivation:
Focusing on Gifted and Talented Students
What is Motivation?
Motivation can be defined in many ways. Petre defines motivation as a desire that a
person has to act in a certain way. This includes the encouragement that takes place to increase
the behavior. A persons motivation is almost always geared toward a certain goal or
achievement and can be seen as a form of encouragement that makes a person realize they need
to have a consistent behavior or action in order to reach a desired goal. (Petre, 2014)
Why Worry About Student Motivation
Student achievement can be directly affected by a students motivation. Motivation
encourages students to push themselves to complete learning tasks. (Petre, 2014) Students
motivation to succeed not only affects how well they learn, but how well they use skills they
already have. Okolo states that teachers should determine their effective instructional practices
based on the impacts on student achievement and that achievement motivation is a product of
student characteristics and instructional practices. (Okolo, 1995)
Students who have a high sense of motivation are more likely to pay attention to the
teacher and maintain an active interest in the learning activity. Students are more likely to
volunteer answers, and ask for guidance when they need it if they have a high sense of
motivation to learn. With motivation students are more likely to work on a problem and persist
in solving it. Work done is above and beyond the requirements for the class and students are
willing to take risks in order to improve their skills. However, with the benefits of a high

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

motivation level comes the deficits caused by not having motivation to learn. When students
lack the motivation to learn significant implications occur on student achievement. (Okolo,
1995)
Teachers must be highly aware of students motivation and what increases their
motivation to learn. Teachers must know how students succeed, why they are motivated to
succeed, and what caused them to be motivated to learn. (Aultman, Glynn, Owens, 2005)
Influences on Student Motivation
Student learning motivation is influenced by several factors including students curiosity,
student affirmation, emphasis on formative aspects of teaching, real world learning, collaborative
knowledge, quality assessments, using a variety of support materials, and promoting a
democratic classroom (Petre, 2014) along with student behavior (Okolo, 1995).
As mentioned above, student characteristics play an important role in student motivation.
The main characteristics that influence student motivation to learn are: (a) the students ability to
perform the given task, (b) how students perceive an activity based on interest and importance,
and (c) students beliefs about learning. (Okolo, 1995)
A study in an Urban elementary school revealed that students felt more motivated to learn
when they were more familiar with the material and were able to get it done right. This
ultimately left students without a deep understanding of the material. When students were given
difficult problems, their motivation wasnt as high, but they were developing self-instruction and
regulation skills. Small group learning was seen to be a good solution to increasing student
behavior. However, the study showed that a students motivation to learn was not increased by
small group work, and student performance was not improved. (McCaslin, 2006)

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

Overview of Gifted Education


In the words of the student, to be gifted means a student who is able to comprehend
complex material, excels in academic and/or interest areas, and has a motivation to learn.
(Delisle, 1987)
The history of education is a long time-line of laws and revisions. Gifted education in
particular has a wide variety of laws and regulations depending on states. Some states have no
laws supporting gifted education, specifically New Hampshire and South Dakota. States like
Minnesota and Hawaii mention gifted education, but do little to actually support these students.
Some states take the law, IDEA, specialized for special education as their support for gifted
students. This law forces all students to receive the services they need to succeed in education.
Gifted education receives recognition on a state-by-state basis and varies in degree of
strength/weakness. (Zirkel, 2005)
Student Motivation for Gifted Students
Teaching students with giftedness can be a tedious job for teachers if the students arent
motivated to learn. In general, gifted students are willing to complete any task given to them,
even if this task is tedious and redundant. It is the teachers job to make the work engaging and
help the student remain engaged. (Clinkenbeard, 2012) Many gifted students lack the motivation
to learn and typically are underachieving academically. In one study it was shown that 38
percent of gifted students where underachieving, although a lack of motivation is not proven to
be the only cause, it does play a major role. Since many gifted students are underachieving any
screenings given to pin-point gifted students may be overlooking the majority of gifted students.

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This is why increasing gifted student motivation is so important. (Alber, Ford, and Heward,
1998)
Gifted student motivation can be divided into two main categories, a characteristic or trait
and an environmental factor that can be influenced. (Feldhusen, Moon, and Yun Dai, 1998)
Based on research, both characteristics and environment have an impact on gifted student
motivation.
Influences on Gifted Student Motivation
Clinkenbeard gives teachers many ideas on increasing gifted students motivation, they
include, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, setting goals, self-perceptions, and attribution
techniques. She also goes into detail about a specific model teachers can use with their gifted
students called TARGET. (Clinkenbeard, 2012)
Intrinsic motivation is one of the best ways to influence gifted students. Many gifted
students have a natural will to learn so they are more likely to respond to intrinsic motivations
than any other students. Many teachers try to use extrinsic measures to influence their
underachieving gifted students, however since gifted students have a strong desire to learn, they
are unlikely to work. Appealing to a students intrinsic interests, or what they are most interested
in, is the best way to have a long-term effect on those gifted students. (Clinkenbeard, 2012) In
one study that followed children from infancy to age 9 proved that students who scored higher
than a 130 IQ had a high sense of intrinsic motivation, and this remain constant throughout the
study. (Feldhusen, Moon, and Yun Dai, 1998)
Every student is going to be influence by their own perceptions of their learning. Gifted
students however, are more likely to have a high sense of self-efficacy and self-concept that

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

means these factors have a stronger influence over these students. So, improving a gifted
students self-perception will inadvertently increase their motivation to learn. (Clinkenbeard,
2012)
Phillip and Lindsay found that students need to be encouraged inside and outside the
classroom. It was found that students wanted to be challenged, but understood that this was hard
to provide in every situation, and they said this had little effect on their motivation to learn as
long as the challenge was their most of the time. Students also said that the more time they were
given outside of school to devote on their interests and talents, the more motivated they were
academically. The home life of the gifted student was seen as an important factor that influences
students motivation to learn and participate in academics in the capacity that they are capable of.
This ultimately leads to the idea of student choice, which in one study showed that 5 out of 13
girls and 7 out of 8 boys claimed that having choice increased their motivation to learn.
(Housand and Housand, 2012)
While participating in things that interest them, students develop relationships with other
students who share those talents. This gives students contacts at their own ability level, giving
them social skills that may cause learning in the classroom to become easier. (Phillips and
Lindsay, 2006) Being around others with similar abilities increases students feelings of
belonging and acceptance, which is related to increased engagement and intrinsic motivation.
(Housand and Housand, 2012)
Attribution is also an important factor for gifted students to be aware of. Attribution is
the idea that students search for the reasons that led to their successes or failures. This is
important for gifted students to have because they are able to take the attributions and really

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

implement those decisions in their future work. (Clinkenbeard, 2012) Along with students
having purposeful feedback, students should be given choices that incorporate their interests.
This will also help keep the students motivation to learn, and increase their desire to have
attrition. (Lindsay, Phillips, 2006) Giving students a choice on what they are learning should
also be tied into students interests. This is a simple and easy way for teachers to maintain gifted
students motivation, make the learning about what they like! An easy way to do this is internet
based learning, it provides students with enough choice and options to find a topic they are
interested in, and it is student-centered. (Alber, Ford, and Heward, 1998)
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is another important factor when looking into
gifted students motivation. When a teacher hears LRE the thought of students with disabilities
is automatic, however, all students are seen under the law (in 20 states) as requiring the least
restrictive environment to learn. With gifted students LRE is different than all other students,
because it is not as much the environment the students are in, but the instruction the students
are receiving that matters. Many gifted students have mastered at least half of the coming school
years curriculum before it even begins and many teachers are unwilling to make provisions for
these students. (Gallagher, 1997)
Models Used to Increase Gifted Student Motivation
Clinkenbeard goes into detail about a model called TARGET that is meant to emphasize
the use of classroom structure and organization to influence a students mastery of goals and
motivational related outcomes. TARGET stands for task (appropriate difficulty level of tasks),
authority (students have shared decision making), recognition (provide extrinsic and intrinsic
rewards), grouping (heterogeneous and flexible grouping), evaluation (criterion-referenced), and

INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION

time (appropriate time to complete tasks). Each of these is need to insure gifted students reach
their full potential and remain motivated to learn. (Clinkenbeard, 2012)
Using Technology to Increase Gifted Student Motivation
In todays society, many children are highly aware of technology and how to use it.
Technology can be a great asset for teachers to use with any students, especially the gifted
students in the class. The internet provides an endless supply of information for students to
study, which lends itself to a high degree of student choice. Students are able to find the answers
to virtually any question that interests them. One study showed that out of 40 third through fifth
grade students grouped by ability, the higher level ability groups were able to demonstrate
greater autonomy and competence than the lower level groups. This study also showed that
using technology with the gifted students increased their motivation to learn as long as the
challenge level was appropriate and they were able to succeed. Selecting appropriate
challenging materials for gifted students is essential, especially when incorporating technology.
(Housand and Housand, 2012)
Using online programs with gifted students is also a great option. These internet based
programs provide great resources and support for gifted students. Those gifted students who are
ready or able to look into college work or programs offered, many are offered through the
internet, some such programs are The Center for Talented Youth at John Hopkins University, and
The Education Program for Gifted Youth at Stanford University. Connecting gifted students to
these types of programs increases their motivation to learn and ultimately prepares them for
higher education. Teachers and parents of gifted students should look into all technologically
based programs that might help their student/childs education. (Housand and Housand, 2012)

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Interviews and Student Experiences


Along with all of the research done on increasing gifted student motivation, I thought it
was important to include some insights from experienced teachers and gifted students. Who
better to give advice on increasing student motivation than the ones who are education the gifted
or are gifted. The teacher who was interviewed is currently a 5th grade teacher in an urban,
poverty stricken school district. She taught in a self-contained gifted 3rd through 5th grade
classroom for about 3 years. The students interviewed are participants of an afterschool
enrichment program in a rural, poverty stricken school district. The school is located in New
York State, so the students are not identified as gifted; however the students were all selected by
their teachers as being highly advanced with the potential for being gifted.
During the interview with the gifted teacher, a number of questions were asked. Only
one of the questions asked was pertained to increasing gifted student motivation. The question
posed was How did you increase your students motivation while teaching the self-contained
gifted classroom? and as an extension of that question, How do you continue to increase your
gifted students motivation now that you are in a general education classroom? The teachers
response was simply choice. Giving students the freedom to choose is the most important
factor in student motivation, especially for gift students who may have a specialty in a certain
area. Providing the students with the opportunity to grow in the areas that interest them is
guaranteed to increase their motivation to learn. This is coming from a highly experienced gifted
and general education teacher, so the best advice given is to provide student choice. (C.M.,
Personal Communication, November 2014)

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The students were all interviewed at the same time during one of the after school
sessions. All of the students agreed that they wanted to do fun and engaging activities. Many
students had specific suggestions as to what they wanted to do in the program. Some said they
wanted to build volcanoes, or do a science fair. All of the students said they would enjoy the
program more if they had more choice. After the interview, the teachers of the program sent out
a student survey asking them what types of subjects they were interested in. This gave the
students some say in what types of things they were learning about. The teachers say a major
improvement in the students engagement in the program. By giving the students more choice in
what they were learning, the students interests and motivation increased. (Gifted Students,
Personal Communication, November 2014)
Conclusion
Gifted education is extremely important in todays society; many of the gifted students
have much to give to the development of todays world. As mentioned in the research above, the
motivation of gifted students is extensive and imperative for the success of gifted students
learning. Teachers should be highly aware of the students in the classroom each year, because
every students needs are different, whether they are gifted or not. Gifted students motivation
can be increased through the use of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, perceptions of
learning, home-life, student interest, attribution, and Least Restrictive Environment. All of these
factors should be implemented in the classroom.

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References

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programs. The Journal of General Education, 54(2), 150-167.
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