• May 20, 2023

Motivation in the 21st century

Throughout history, an important aspect of all facets of education (music included) revolves around the ways a teacher helps motivate their students. A teacher can be more effective when the student trusts him. This teacher-student relationship creates the natural love of learning that is nurtured by the teacher and cultivated by the student. One important way that a good teacher helps to continue to nurture this love of learning is by accessing various types of motivation to give the student goals that he can achieve. In the field of education, there are two important types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

By definition, extrinsic motivation is the type whereby the teacher includes items, rewards, and other “prizes” that are offered to the student for a “job well done.” The effect is this: the student works for the reward and receives the reward in a short period of time. As such, extrinsic motivations are organized, worked on, and accomplished in a short period of time. As soon as one set of extrinsic motivation triggers is complete, the teacher should create and distribute another set. An example of this type of extrinsic motivation would be the use of stickers to offer students as a reward for their progress or behavior in class. The reward is given when the various tasks associated with the sticker are completed; the next task that requires an additional tag is provided to reset the previous task. As such, the motivational circle continues.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation, by definition, offers the student internal rewards for a job well done through the actions that the student presents to the teacher. Essentially, by working hard or completing an assignment and therefore receiving a strong sense of accomplishment for successfully completing said assignment, the student not only receives praise from the teacher, but also feels good about completing the assignments. There are no external rewards, as is the case with extrinsic motivation. Instead, motivation comes to the student through the feeling of accomplishment that comes with the completion of each task they set out to complete. This sense of achievement is the internal reward that feeds the natural internal desire to learn that is within each student.

A good teacher is able to juggle both types of motivation. Within the framework of the private music lesson, the teacher has the opportunity to get to know the student well enough to decide what tactics to use to help foster ongoing motivation. With the advent of various technological tools, the task of helping to motivate students has become easier and easier.

In a series of surveys published in 2013 and 2014, data was provided indicating that more than 1 in 4 children under the age of 8 know how to use a computer, tablet, or smartphone. In the same study, it was estimated that 1 in 3 children between the ages of 9 and 13 were proficient in the use of such technologies that could confidently teach an adult to solve problems. Children who used technology for educational purposes at home had a greater sense of problem-solving skills and a greater ability to complete tasks when given a reward (such as accumulating points, completing a level of a game, or completing a the game itself). This use of extrinsic motivation to provide a reward for task completion allows the student to have fun while completing the task at hand.

For all of us who have studied music as children, currently have children studying music or teaching music, we know that the challenge we all face is this: learning a musical skill requires a lot of effort and time to be successful. The proper amount of time to master the skills associated with music takes many years. Many teachers of the performing arts, such as professional musicians, singers, recording artists, and recording engineers, will all agree with this fact. All people of the same pedigree will also agree that, at one point along the way, at least one teacher inspired them to thrive in their musical studies. This teacher, generally known and remembered by his name, created the spark for musical growth that creates a lifelong love of learning. This is strong evidence to argue that intrinsic motivation is a powerful resource to help foster lifelong success.

There are many interesting tools that a music teacher can use, including various apps on a number of topics including music theory, music history, ear training, and recording techniques. In addition, there are many programs such as YouTube, Garage Band, Ever Note, among others. Each of these tools offers a large number of options for any music teacher and music student to create a fun environment to increase motivation. Students no longer have to sit at their instrument and only have books as their primary resource for learning. Using the multitude of available tools, teachers have the option of creating a custom study that meets the needs of many learning environments. This allows the student to enter a world of vast possibilities that were not available 15 years ago.

The trick for every teacher is to be willing to embrace this new generation of technological advances while fostering intrinsic motivation in an extrinsically motivated environment. In conclusion, there are many tools available to all music teachers, parents and students in this new generation of technology within the 21st century. It is important to note that these tools, as mentioned, will help encourage everyone to have fun while enjoying their music studies; However, these tools are not just secrets to success. The teacher must know how to motivate students to “keep going” through the successes and challenges that naturally come to all music students. The combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivational triggers will help create the next generation of musicians, music enthusiasts, and music appreciators. This is the primary goal that will help keep music alive and push it forward for the next generation and beyond.

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