Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sorry for the delay, Emily!

A few days ago Emily Hunt left me a comment on my blog Narrowing Down that read:
With different types of motivation, do you feel the teachers approach could be a key one? (Hunt, 2013)
It's something that I was all ready to agree with but then I couldn't quite organise what I wanted to say coherently until I remembered this article I found in September: (Biolchini, 2013).

The section that linked in my mind to Emily's comment is from Wendy Rothman - a teacher at Mitchell Elementary School - who, according to the article 'spoke first in a reflective address to remind teachers that how they talk to their students and arrange their classroom has a major impact on how a student's day and school year goes' (Rothman in Biolchini, 2013). The example she then gives shows how motivation can be changed with the flick of a switch. I know for sure that there are times when no sooner have I opened my mouth, I wish I hadn't, and the reaction/ action of the pupil on the receiving end is something that tends to stay with me for a long time. An occasional slip might not be too damaging, or might it?

In my data collection so far I have been aware of the numerous occasions that interviewees have spoken about how the manner in which the teacher deals with the day-to-day of dance class occurrences has a big impact on the motivation of those students within that class. The area seems broad, and I am using both student voice and theory here, but includes such things as: negative feedback (Buckroyd, 2000), correction without explanation (Participant 004, 2013), controlling rather than autonomy developing (Reeve, 2005), shouting at students in front of others (Participant 008, 2013), negative comparison (Participant 005 and 007, 2013), learning binds (Schon, 1987), ignoring students (Participant 012, 2013), and more. However, a common theme seems to be evident here - the basic principle of how you communicate with your students - both verbally and non-verbally, intentionally or unintentionally - and how the student understands this communication; alternatively put, the intra-personal relationship between teacher and pupil.

So, this would suggest it is more of a state of mind than a case of think before you speak. Is the root of using language more about the teacher's perspective? By which I mean:
  • if the teacher values the student there is less likelihood of students feeling ignored or negatively compared to others,
  • if the teacher appreciates the psychological needs of the individual (Reeve, 2005) then she is more likely to be able to tailor the comment/ event/ experience within the class to suit the student,
Cos I can either be really open with my emotions  or really inside so often teachers...and when I’m getting angry they often think I’m just being, like, attitude-y or sulky but it’s not that it’s, just, like, my frustration (Participant 003, 2013)
  • if the teacher builds a relationship with the student built on cooperation rather than seeking to control (Reeve, 2005) or create a win/lose model (Schon, 1987) then the student will not experience the loss of autonomy (Reeve, 2005),
  • if the teacher provides the reasoning behind feedback, or rationale that is informational (Reeve, 2005), then the student is more likely to see the worth of doing something,
  • if the teacher understands what 'drives' the student then they will more likely to provide every individual with the level of challenge that they need within the class (Criss, 2011).

I have also been quite amazed by the 'teacher knows everything' comments that I have heard during interview.
That's a potentially fatal combination isn't it... A teacher who uses language without care or consideration plus a student who believes the teacher is always right. Consider the following examples:
"My teacher tells me I'm not good enough" - well, my teacher must be right because she knows everything.
"My teacher doesn't like me she never says anything nice to me" - well, I can't be very nice then because, again, my teacher is always right.

So now I feel ready to respond; here goes, Emily!
Not only does a good teacher need to be able to reflect on and understand the power of her words but she also needs to understand the motivations, personality traits, psychological needs, and past experiences, that each student is composed of - like those children's books where you could give the policeman the legs of a frogman! In short, Emily, my answer is, yes, the teacher needs to match the way of communicating with the individual!


Biolchini, A. 2013. Motivation for success: Ann Arbor teachers share insights with their peers. The Ann Arbour News, [blog] 3rd Septmber 2013, Available at: [Accessed: 23 Oct 2013].

Buckroyd, J. 2000. The student dancer. London: Dance.

Criss, E. 2011. Dance All Night: Motivation in Education. Music Educators Journal, 97 (3), pp. 61-66. Available from: [Accessed: 23rd October 2013].

Participant 003. 2013. BAPP inquiry interview. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person] 17th October 2013

Participant 004. 2013. BAPP inquiry interview. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person] 10th October 2013.

Participant 005. 2013. BAPP inquiry interview. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person] 18th October 2013.

Participant 007. 2013. BAPP inquiry interview. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person] 21st October 2013.

Participant 008. 2013. BAPP inquiry interview. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person] 15th October 2013.

Participant 012. 2013. BAPP inquiry interview. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person] 21st October 2013.

Reeve, J. 2005. Understanding Motivation and Emotion. 4th ed. London: Wiley and Sons.

Schön, D. 1987. Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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