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Education Psychology, Learning and Motivation

Diversity in educational settings

In any educational setting in the current society, the student population is quite diverse. Kirylo says that the diversity of a student population is defined in terms of recognizing an assortment of needs of students ranging from those caused by differences in ethnicity, social and economic classes, language gender and even disabilities. In order to make it possible for all students to succeed in education, schools try to address these diversity issues. Management in schools also makes attempts to respond to diversity in society. They do this by promoting an understanding of the differences in culture and other aspects and also encourage acceptance of these differences.

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Besides the differences that concern culture, language and social diversity, there are also such differences as concern individual student personalities. Students are different from one another in relation to aspects like the attention span in class, socialization and staying on task. Goold, Craig and Coldwell identify areas where student population was evidently diverse. They summarize the differences by stating them as ethnicity, age, learning styles, social class, educational background, language, gender, level of study, generational background, life experiences, religion, and attitudes of students, technological knowledge, expectations and socio-economic status. The various differences are capable of impacting on student learning and influence learning approaches. Students might be shaped by the culture in which they were brought up but they also remain individuals and are therefore different by virtue of their personality.

Differences in culture are mostly manifested in students’ behavior in the classroom. To this respect, there is always a question of how an insightful teacher can teach constructively in a way that will meet the diverse needs of the diverse student population in the learning environment since the question of whether a teacher will have a diverse student population is guaranteed (Kyrilo, 2004). This implies that an educator should be aware of their strengths and weaknesses in order to meet the needs of the students. Reflective practice promotes the possession of an understanding of how an educator will handle the various needs of each student. This calls for a differentiation of classroom instruction. In such a setting, a teacher will provide the environment for each student to learn deeply and quickly without imagining that every student’s learning ability is the same (Tomlinson, 1999). According to this writer, to be fair is to recognize that each child possesses individual strengths as well as weaknesses and needs and hence do what is fair in meeting these differences.

Effectively preparing teachers for a diverse student population is an issue that faces teacher educators. Effective teacher education programs should aim at immersing teachers in the cultures of other people. This is the way to promote cultural awareness and hence understanding what each student brings into the learning environment. In addition, interacting with individual students sets them apart from group perception of culture and the teacher begins to perceive the students as individuals. The provision of teachers with field experiences which have different settings is one way that prepares the teachers for a diverse student population.

In order to accommodate the different needs of students in a diverse student population, the tutor could find it necessary to employ a variety of approaches. The approaches relate to provision of teaching resources that will be appropriate for the various exhibited learning styles (Barnett, 2006). Barnett goes on to suggest that there should be a clear understanding of the students, their backgrounds as well as an establishment of clear a strategy that defines the roles and expectations of the students and teachers. The learning environment needs to be humanized so that a sense of community is created. Moreover, Goold, Craig and Coldwell explain that some issues that make an impact on the teaching of diverse culture groups include recognizing that all students have a right to the respect of their various cultures and should also respect the cultures of others. Secondly, students’ expectations vary and the teacher should make efforts to ensure the expectations are at least met. Thirdly, most of the students are not prepared to take responsibility of their learning and hence there is creation of a gap between their expectations and those of the teacher. Some students do not really value learning for the knowledge that they will gain but rather for the qualifications they will get.

It is necessary to know individual students and their cultural backgrounds. Language sometimes is responsible for stereotyping students. School administrations should make efforts to standardize language and choose words, images and situations carefully so that language will not be used to reinforce racial and existing ethical stereotypes. Educators also have a responsibility to promote group work so that classes that form depending on the various difference and similarities are discouraged. Since an educator is a professional, they should find ways to use explanations that accommodate diverse cultures for questions that might seem to lean on particular cultures. Tylor (1871) explains that particular resources of learning ought to be included in learning curriculums since they assist the educator to handle diversity in the classroom. Educators should design learning for one learning community and not different cultures that present themselves in the student population (Ngeow and Kong, 2002). However, it is important to recognize the different groups and learning styles in the planning of the curriculum.

Das (2005) claims that using examples from the different cultural groups is also helpful in alleviating the differences. Mixing student groups in the learning environment fosters diversity among the learners. This might seem ineffective but providing time for reflection and understanding is also a way to accommodate the various needs. Clubs that allow students to socialize and exchange experiences is another way through diversity can be tackled. In this case, the students take responsibility to assist one another fit in the environment.

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Learning environments provide a setting for students from diverse backgrounds to come together in the same classroom. The classroom provides clues that make it possible for teachers and learners to be sensitive to culture.

When working with a student population that is diverse, the idea is to accommodate all the students in that learning environment. This involves building on the various strengths and weaknesses exhibited by the students and meeting each of the needs of each of the students. A teacher is required to assess the likelihood of biases as well as establish significant dialogue with the students and the parents. Above all, a teacher needs to build and maintain positive relationships with colleagues and keep up their professionalism. This brings satisfaction to both the teacher and the students knowing that everyone is doing their best in making connections with the diverse student population (Wooden, 2004).

Approaches to learning

Behaviorism

This theory centers on overt behavior and does not look into mental processes. Learning is defined by the proponents of this theory as acquisition of new behavior. Conditioning is the main learning process that is covered under this theory. The two types of conditioning that influence learnings are classic conditioning and operant conditioning otherwise called behavioral conditioning. In classic conditioning, learning occurs when reflex responds to stimulus. An example that has often been used is the response of dogs in at the sight of food. They salivate. Even in humans, certain stimulus elicits some kind of response. People learn through repetition of this stimulus (Bakhurst, 1995).

On the other hand, operant conditioning occurs in the occasion that response to stimulus is reinforced. Response to stimulus is repeated when reward accompanies this response. A person is likely to perform better in a test in future if the person was rewarded for good performance in the past.

Experiential learning

This approach to learning is associated with Carl Rogers. The theorist distinguished two types of learning and identified them as cognitive and experiential. Mednick argues that in Carl’s approach, cognitive learning is associated with academic knowledge. Experiential learning is associated with applied knowledge. The former is characterized by such qualities as personal participation, self-initiation and self-evaluation. This kind of learning is facilitated when a student can participate actively in the learning process and learning occurs when one is in direct confrontation with practical problems. In addition, learning occurs when one is able to evaluate their progress and success.

Social cognition

This is associated with Vygotsky. Culture is the main determinant of personal development according to this approach. People are responsible for the creation of culture. In that case, a child’s development is in accordance with that particular culture in which they are brought up. Through culture, a child will develop their intellectual adaptation and acquire much of the knowledge they possess. Cognitive learning occurs when a child learns through sharing problem-solving experiences with another person for instance the teacher. Curriculums should therefore be designed in such a way that they emphasize interaction between learners and the learning tasks (Clay and Cazden, 1990).

Humanistic approach

The approach focuses on the desire that everyone has to learn. Learners therefore need to be given power to control their learning process. The approach is associated with Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Malcolm Knowles and John Holt (Bakhurst, 1995).

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Motivation in education

What are the issues in Marcia’s case?

Marcia has always believed she is an A material in her class. Performance means everything to her. This is why she follows up so ardently on her grades. As her peers say, she seeks perfection. Her determination is to pass all tests, including this first algebra test. Once she does the test, she is confident of success. Unfortunately, this time she has not performed to her expectations and she is in denial of this failure. Since she believes in perfection, Marcia is determined to be dropped to Pre-algebra. This is not where she should be though as she is bright and will not be challenged in this class.

Describe Marcia’s motivation using attribution theory.

The proponent of attribution theory is Weiner (Weiner, 1980). It proposes that motivation for learners is derived from the pleasant result where the student is able to feel good about themselves. In it is incorporated the cognitive and self-efficacy theories which lay emphasis on the fact that the self perception of students determine how motivated they are to learn. It influences the interpretation by the student of the success or failure they meet in their efforts. It therefore determines their future behavior.

Marcia always feels good about herself whenever her grades only reflect As, the reason she keeps track of her grades every time. Her determination to pass this test is derived from the fact that she has never gotten a grade that is not an A in any test. This is why she even feels confident after the test that she has excelled again. Her motivation is her history of acing tests in all the grades she has been to.

Students interpret success or failure based on three characteristics according to Bempechat. One of these is that the failure or success was caused by external or internal factors. Secondly, that the cause was stable where they believe the outcome will be the same if the same behavior is repeated or unstable in that the outcome could differ. Thirdly, the cause is controllable where the learner can alter if they want to or uncontrollable in that the learner is incapable of changing the outcome. Marcia believes that the cause for her failure was controllable and she could have done better. This is why she wants to be dropped to pre-algebra.

The theory assumes that a learner will understand the environment in a way that maintains the image they have of themselves. The learner assumes that their success or failure is attributed to feature that make them feel pleased with themselves. Thus when a student succeeds, they attribute this to the efforts they put in. On the other hand, when they fail, they think they had no control over the causes of that failure like bad luck. Basically, the theory suggests that a student’s perception of success or failure determines their future effort.

Students become persistent in their academic efforts when they are able to attribute the outcome of their efforts to internal unstable or stable factors that they cannot control and the latter might be occasionally interrupted by other aspects, and their failures to internal unstable factors they cannot control. Though the motivation for Marcia should have been to compete with the other students as Ms. Crosby tells her, Marcia feels bad and believes that B is the worst grade she could ever get.

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Describe Marcia’s motivation using goal orientation theory

Janzow and Eison (1990) look into the topic of goal orientation as a source of motivation for students by claiming that students have been shown to display two main orientations towards their studies. One of these is orientation towards grades where students work to get good grades while the other is orientation towards learning or working in order to learn. Marcia is one of the majority of students who work to achieve good grades. That is her main concern though she might be interested in learning something from her teacher. She appears though to realize that the job market will be interested mostly in her qualifications which are reflected in her grades.

Under this is the achievement goal orientation in motivation of learners (Johnson D. and Johnson, R., 1985). The goal a student has set for herself will determine how the student works towards achieving that goal. Students with a mastery goal orientation put a lot of effort to see that they master a concept or skill. They work hard regardless of difficulties and frustrations. Grade oriented students are performance goal oriented. They want to appear competent. They might not persist if they make an error as they are afraid of being labeled as incompetent. Marcia falls under this category.

Describe Marcia’s motivation using social cognitive theory

Dweck and Leggett (1988) put it forth that social cognitive theory focuses on the impact of observing others on one’s behavior. It also involves the beliefs, environment and expectations of learners. The two scholars argue that reinforcement and punishment are two factors that affect motivation. When an educator is able to treat al the students with respect, the teacher is a model and the students can relate the classroom environment with the nature of the teacher. Marcia feels that she needs assistance and hence seeks Ms. Crosby.

A teacher can also influence the feelings learners have of competence by persisting and rewarding achievement (Miller and Dollard, 1941). It would appear that Marcia is not motivated by observing the students or by the praise she receives from her teacher. She is only determined to please herself through good grades.

Is Marcia extrinsically or intrinsically motivated?

Intrinsic motivation refers to what a person will do without the motivation of external factors. People who are intrinsically motivated do things without looking forward to any reward. Their activities are determined by the pleasure and interest they derive from those activities. The factors that determine motivation are individual or interpersonal meaning that the factors are in operation even when a person is working alone and when someone else is in interaction with a learner. The factors that influence intrinsic motivation are challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, competition, cooperation and recognition (Ryan and Deci).

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is motivation that is influenced by external factors like good grades, praise and monetary rewards (Ryan and Deci). In this case, Marcia is extrinsically motivated. Her concern is attaining good grades and therefore being seen as competent in her class. This is the praise she wants.

Why does Marcia want to be placed in Pre-algebra? What is the motivation for this behavior?

Marcia’s motivation to be in pre-algebra class is derived from the fact that she thinks that getting a B in her test is prove that she is not good enough. She had been confident that she was good enough and had passed the test but since she failed, this is a bad reflection on her grades. Her motivation is therefore the praise she should have gotten for performing excellently in a test that was feared by everyone.

Should Ms. Crosby allow Marcia to take pre-algebra instead of algebra?

Ms. Crosby should not allow Marcia to take pre-algebra instead of algebra. If the teacher wants Marcia to persist the algebra task, she should help her to establish an honest belief that she is competent and that her occasional failures are caused by some other factors like bad luck or not putting in maximum effort. These factors might not be there in the next occasion. She should also make it clear that it is not really favorable to attribute success to personal ability. If Marcia feels that she has all the ability, she might not put in additional effort. Marcia should be guided to feel that whenever she succeeds, it is because she is competent and she worked hard to pass.

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Das, R. (2005). Internationalisation of the curriculum: Putting theory into practice in a physiotherapy program. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 2(1), 25-35. Web.

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Wooden, J. (2004). In J. C. Maxwell, Today matters: 12 daily practices to guarantee tomorrow’s success (pp. 37). New York: Center Street.

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