Motivation in the 21st Century

Throughout history, one important aspect of all facets of education (including music) revolve around the ways that a teacher helps to motivate their students. A teacher can be most-effective when the student trusts in the teacher. This relationship between teacher and student creates the natural love of learning that is nurtured by the teacher and is grown by the student. An important way that a good teacher helps to continue nurturing this love of learning is by accessing various types of motivation to give the student goals that they 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 by which the teacher includes objects, 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 all within a short period of time. As such, extrinsic motivations are organized, worked for and achieved all within a short period of time. As soon as one series of extrinsic motivation triggers are completed, another set must be created and distributed by the teacher. An example of such extrinsic motivation would be the use of stickers to offer to students as a reward for their progress or conduct in class. The reward is given when the various tasks associated with the sticker are completed; the next task that warrants an additional sticker 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 a task and thus receiving a strong sense of accomplishment for completing such a task in a successful fashion, the student not only receives accolades from the teacher, they also feel good for completing the tasks. There are no outward rewards, as is the case with extrinsic motivation. Instead, the 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 accomplishment is the internal reward that nourishes the natural internal desire to learn that is within each student.

A good teacher is able to juggle both of these types of motivation. In the setting of the private music lesson, the teacher has the opportunity to get to know the student well enough in order to decide what tactics to use to help encourage continuous motivation. With the advent of various technological tools, the task for helping to motivate students has become increasingly easier.

In a series of surveys that were published in 2013 and 2014, facts were provided which stated that over 1-in-4 children under the age of 8 know how to use a computer, tablet, or smart phone. In the same study, it was calculated that 1-in-3 children between the ages of 9-13 had mastered the use of such technologies that they could confidently teach an adult to troubleshoot problems. Children that used technology for educational purposes in the home had a greater sense of problem solving skills and a higher ability to complete tasks when a reward was provided (such as the collection of points, completion of a level of a game, or the completion of the game itself). This use of extrinsic motivation to offer reward for the completion of tasks allows the student to have fun while completing the task at hand.

For all of us that have studied music as children, currently have children studying music, or teach music, we know that the challenge that we all face is this: learning a musical skill takes a lot of effort and time to succeed. The proper amount of time to master skills associated within music take many years. Many masters of performance art such as professional musicians, singers, record artists and recording engineers will all agree to this fact. All individuals 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, usually known and remembered by name, created the spark for musical growth that creates a life-long love of learning. This is strong proof to argue that intrinsic motivation is the powerful resource to help nurture life-long success.

There are many interesting tools that a music teacher can use including various apps on a series 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 offer a cornucopia of options for any music teacher and music student to create a fun environment to increase motivation. No longer do students have to sit at their instrument and only have books as their primary resource to learning. By using the many multitudes of tools available, teachers have the option to create a personalized studio that fits the needs of many of 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 create be willing to embrace this new generation of technological advancement while nurturing 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 observe that these tools as mentioned will help encourage everyone to have fun while enjoying their musical studies yet these tools are not only 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 mixture of extrinsic and intrinsic motivational triggers will help to create the next generation of musicians, music enthusiasts and music appreciators. This is the main goal that will help keep music alive and thriving for the next generation and beyond.