Motivation is a very complicated issue. There have been several different motivators for me in my education thus far, but something that might motivate me might not motivate someone else. My motivation to read for myself comes from enjoyment and interest–I read because I want to read. Reading for school, however, has sometimes been for the sole purpose of academic success. Especially in subject areas I wasn’t interested in during high school and college, the only thing driving me to pick up a text was a grade. While grades can be effective motivators for some, they fail many others. They also are probably not the best motivators for even high achievers because many, including myself, develop the ability to fake comprehension for a grade. I think the best motivator, which is difficult to cultivate in a classroom, is genuine interest. Unless students are coming into your class already interested, which is unlikely, the way I see this being achieved is only through passionate and creative teaching.
The texts, for me, brought light to the importance of prior knowledge and metacognition in reading comprehension and motivation. Though I have background knowledge about schema theory and have an understanding of how important metacognition is in the reading process, it was helpful to read about specific teaching strategies that make use of these theoretical principles in the classroom. In this way, the readings didn’t change my mind about prior knowledge and metacognition, but rather gave me ideas of how to apply these theories in the classroom.
The Spires and Donley article was helpful in that it provided research-based evidence the for effectiveness of prior-knowledge activation strategies. The point I found most interesting, though, is that not only did the PKA group outperform the other group, but they also displayed a more positive attitude toward reading. They write, “One potential reason for the more positive attitudes exhibited by the PKA group is that the inclusion of personal knowledge is inherently more motivating than the relatively low-interest task of extracting main ideas” (Spires & Donley 9). This ties directly back to my pre-reading assertion that it is genuine interest that best cultivates motivation.
Closely related to the suggestion that a positive attitude toward reading leads to motivation is the textbook’s claim that self-efficacy is also directly related to motivation. Many of the prereading scaffolding strategies that the text gives, I deduced, were designed to develop the students’ sense of self-efficacy. For example, I particularly liked the section about making predictions, because I think doing so helps students feel like an active participant. Also, tools like the anticipation guide for Night can be helpful in making the text relevant while increasing students’ self-efficacy through active construction of the text.
Though I see the value of many of these strategies that are designed to aid the student through the reading process, I do feel that overusing them can suck the fun out of reading. I’ve thought about this a lot in relation to writing; in our high-stakes testing era, the emphasis, at least in my experience, is exclusively on the 5-paragraph analytical essay. While I know students need to learn how to execute this proficiently, I think it’s important to let students explore other kinds of writing so they have a shot at developing a love of the art. Also, in my experience, writing just to write has value, which is why I think activities like an ungraded daily journal have value. By the same token, I think that reading just to read has value as well. If all the reading I did in school was scaffolded in ways detailed in the textbook, I don’t think I would enjoy reading at all. While I do plan to use many of the prereading strategies designed to engage students’ pre-existent knowledge, I think they can be overused. Their implementation should be thoughtful and have a specific purpose. RCA2011.