Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

Student motivation is, and will always seem to be, the make or break point for quality instruction. With it, a lesson can take off and inspire new breakthroughs among any involved (student or teacher). Without it, the classroom can turn into a dry well as the teacher stands in front of the class either grasping for only a drop of engagement, if not totally feeling their own efforts futile altogether. The discussion of student motivation (specifically adolescent girls in regards to PE) has always been a subliminal motivator to pursue PE from personal experience. Although I considered myself an athlete in high school, I despised ‘gym class’. The class time itself seemed disorganized, the activities were less than engaging, and as a teenage girl in a class full of the male-dominated 15% (referring to the athletic population of a PE teacher’s students overall), I felt like an afterthought. There are only so many times before walking the track not only becomes monotonous, but a hindrance on academic growth.

When the search for articles on motivation in PE began, I consciously attempted to find ones specific to that of the adolescent female population to see if any headway was made in that particular part of PE rhetoric. Two of the studies found focused on internal and external factors that call into question an adolescent’s self-perspective, which were extremely helpful in getting a well-rounded understanding of the motivation drop-off issue, but a study done by Mitchell, Gray, and Inchley endeavored to answer the questions I’ve had since I started to actively explore the issue.

The longitudinal case study reflected the findings of young female (15-19 years old) motivation increasing from a PAI (physical activity intervention) as opposed to a traditional PE setting. The main objective to the study was to answer the following four questions:

What were the main reasons for girls’ disengagement in PE before the intervention?

How did the disengaged girls’ participation and perceptions of PE change during the three-year intervention?

What key factors contributed to change in girls’ participation and perceptions of PE during a three-year intervention?

To what extent were girls’ needs for competence, relatedness and autonomy met within the PE context?

The longitudinal study follows five girls who label themselves as ‘disengaged from PE’ and track their activity by surveys and interviews with record of participation in both traditional PE and PAI. Mitchell et al. discusses the possible deterrents from full participation in PE with examples of self-consciousness and lack of support. The results demonstrated that a PAI that was discovery/learner-centered had a positive impact on physical activity participation.

Each of the studies referenced Self-determination Theory as the backbone of research methodology, which is a psychology-based mainstay in the ongoing conversation of education. The requirements to reach students by way of relatedness, competence, and autonomy is an ongoing obstacle that each discipline must overcome to reach its respective standards. This concept of a PAI being a helpful tool is beneficial, however, we as Physical educators must keep in mind that it is exactly that; a tool. The study indicates that the curriculum was essentially made by the participants, which increased motivation, but I realized that it didn’t adhere to the standards necessary to be referred to as a quality PE alternative. this is where a PE teachers needs to utilize his/her pedagogical expertise to find the happy medium between interest/intrinsic motivation and meeting benchmarks to qualify as a PE program that is up to par.

This particular assignment was a personal favorite. Rarely do we as Prospective educators get to engage in the rhetoric and issues of our respective fields and this allowed me to dive in deeper to understand the ‘why’ instead of the common ‘what’ of PE.


Mitchell, F., Gray, S., & Inchley, J. (2015). ‘This choice thing really works … ’ Changes in experiences and engagement of adolescent girls in physical education classes, during a school-based physical activity programme. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 20(6), 593-611.

Rutten, C., Boen, F., & Seghers, J. (2012). How School Social and Physical Environments Relate To Autonomous Motivation in Physical Education: The Mediating Role of Need Satisfaction. Journal Of Teaching In Physical Education, 31(3), 216-230.

Cox, A. E., Ullrich-French, S., & Sabiston, C. M. (2013). Using motivation regulations in a person-centered approach to examine the link between social physique anxiety in physical education and physical activity-related outcomes in adolescents. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14(4), 461-467. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.01.005

It’s All About Perspective: Behaviorism and Cognitive Perspectives

One of our modules in class focuses on different perspectives of learning; mainly behaviorism and cognitivism. This particular module made little sense at first, but after diving deeper into the concepts, I essentially came to this conclusion: behaviorism focuses on the ‘what’ that we expect or anticipate from our student and cognitivism focuses on the ‘how’ in terms of processing decisions and choices. The biggest difference between the two perspectives is the idea of predisposition. While the behaviorist standpoint adheres to a more ‘blank slate’ approach to learning and development, the cognitive perspective focuses on the idea that every student has a certain capacity to learn.

So what?

Well, the importance of this difference lies in our own values as educators, the way we interact with our students, and the material we present. If we, as teachers, feel as though our students are little minds waiting to be molded by our gift of knowledge, it shapes how we view reinforcement. If we believe that each child has the capacity to learn regardless of intellectual level, then we plan a lesson based on discovery, expansion and some self-guidance. The ideas of Vygotsky and Bandura are the two that I immediately sided with in terms of knowledge fluidity and self-efficacy. After going into the depths of Youtube to find a video that better aids to my audio/visual learning style, I came across this ( although slightly dry) useful and point-driven video on the differences in learning perspectives based on teaching.

How do I know which to use?

That’s a loaded question. In theory, we like to think (in terms of curriculum and execution) that everything is completely streamlined, efficient, and foolproof. In reality, that’s never truly the case. Concept and style mixtures happen and for good effect! To me, not every child is the same (which demonstrates my values in perspective). We must understand that while some students need a more behaviorist approach to adhere to standards in the class and to receive a baseline of information they may not have received before, some students can run on self-guidance and discovery. Learning perspectives should not be viewed as concepts that we need to adhere to, but more as references for what we want to accomplish in our classrooms.


Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational psychology: active learning edition. Boston: Pearson.

Knowledge Means We Don’t Know Everything

Knowledge and the influences of one’s environment were the topics of this module. Urie Bronfenbrenner was the biggest conceptual contributor to our discussions with his Bioecological model of development, which demonstrates the influential levels of relationships by way of environmental systems (micro-, meso-, exo-, and macro-) and the people in them.

What does this have to do with teaching?
Understanding your students is key for connection and communication. As a future teacher, if I’m not able to build a rapport with them, how am I going to run a successful class? The image above is Bronfenbrenner’s model that shows all of the influences of a child. While school is in the first degree of separation in terms of influence, it is only one of many that has the ability to impact a child. We must recognize the other factors in order to be successful, especially if two or more of those contradict one another. Recognizing and mediating inner animosity in a child can be the key to getting through to him/her.
In class discussion, we also brought up parenting style concepts (authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglect) and cultural influences. KNowing these as a teacher will help immensely, if not purely for the relationship of parenting and teaching, then for the background knowledge to establish a deeper connection with students. The effects of an authoritative parent can be vastly different on a child than that of a neglectful parenting style. While the scholastic expectations are the same for either student., the outcome can be dictated by that parenting relationship in regards to ability to communicate, feelings of parental investment (kids know when you care!) and not only permission, but encouragement to express themselves.
Never assume the worst!
Both of the psychological models are awesomely beneficial in terms of giving instructors a baseline for relationship establishment with students, however, they have some drawbacks. Neither takes intrinsic motivation of the child into account. While we all are a product of our environment in some way, we have the power and autonomy to reach our own goals that may not be positively influenced by our home-life. It is our responsibility as educators to invest in and encourage that intrinsic resilience in our students to do well.

Diversity: Are you ever prepared enough?

As educators, we are faced not only to take on the job as generators of motivation and knowledge, but to be mediators in the classroom for cultural and socio-economic differences. It is our responsibility to level the playing field as much as possible to ensure that our students get as much as possible out of their educational experiences. In order to do this, we must recognize these crucial points:
-Background variety and cultural stigmas
– Need for a focal point in school-invested environment for all students to participate in so that they have a common connection/investment
-Communication and parental involvement barriers due to race and SES (socio-economic status)
– Our ability to foster resilience
Preparation for a culturally diverse class community is a foundation for success; however that process is not a perfect science. Even if the class is has a curriculum that makes cultural inclusion the forefront, there is always room for miscommunication and dissonant/contrasting values. In order to (at the very least) prepare for a culturally inclusive and academia-based environment, we need to attempt to focus students on the investment in education and create an intrinsic sense of school pride/participation, along with pulling on our own positive experiences with diversity to demonstrate that variety of culture is a strength, not a hindrance.
Due to history in the US regarding race, immigration and civil rights, a teacher needs to be aware of subcultural influence. As a future PE and Health educator, I need to be aware of the cultural backgrounds of my students in regards to their exposure and practice of certain motor skills, access to resources and materials, and family/peer influence on the importance of physical fitness and activity. A study done by Jarron Saint Onge and Patrick Krueger demonstrates that education and race-ethnicity are important markers for social position in the US that have established relationships with physical activity. Compared to whites and more educated individuals, blacks, Hispanics, and less educated individuals exercise less often (US Dept. of Health and Human services 2000). Educators in certain districts need to understand the impact of socio-economic status and racial influence in order to teach and assist accordingly in their students’ educational well-being in health and wellness. In the video, ‘A Girl Like Me’, the young women and girls speak on the internal struggles of acceptance among the culture that they consider their own. Due to exposure to this, the concept of creating an environment that is culturally accepting to all and education-invested is imperative for students to feel like a full participant in their education. This is where fostering resilience comes into play. Some of the students that we teach will not have control over their levels of support, so it is our responsibility to attempt to instill that intrinsic motivation to do well for the sake of their academic and overall success.

Sources for this blog:

Saint Onge, J. M., & Krueger, P. M. (2011). Education and racial-ethnic differences in types of exercise in the United States. Journal Of Health And Social Behavior, 52(2), 197-211. doi:10.1177/0022146510394862

Research: You’re an Educator, Therefore, a Researcher

Our first module shines a connective and cohesive light on the idea of research and education. In the age of hard data, the task of getting one’s point across to peers in the realm of teaching can be daunting if that point isn’t backed by valid and reliable study. Access to and literacy in various types of research gives the modern educator a voice loud enough to be heard over doubt and criticism along with proof to support claims overturn obsolete policy (an issue with which we are being presented as a nation as of recent).

Information literacy is crucial to deciphering what is needed and what is not when determining the proper use of hard data collected by educators. As a future educator in a world where an almost infinite amount of new information is available at our fingertips every day, we must understand what makes good quality information to support or discredit an argument and what makes for an unreliable source. It is when we have the ability to do this that we can be the most potent and influential we can be as educators.

With this being said, our class was presented with this image of a note sent home by an educator with a firm stance on the concept of homework:

Image result for no homework policy

Mrs. Young makes a strong claim in the second paragraph about how ‘research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance’ but never states the type of research, who that research is geared to (age of student or class subject), and the type of homework given. I can only assume that, because of the language use and activities listed, this is geared towards younger elementary school students. In three published studies, all stressed the importance of homework, but took their work a step further to indicate which types of homework work best, along with the concept of aptitude self-appraisal in regards to assignment difficulty levels. Senaratne and Kodippili state that “In addition to significant differences in success rates between students who do and do not use MML as a media for homework, both students and faculty benefit from MML (MyMathLab). For examples: MML enables faculty to spend more time with students; as homework grading is transferred to MML, students can learn according to the style and pace that best suit them.”


Granted, this study was done on high school students and, depending on the age group of her students, Mrs. Young may have some different insight as to what studies were done on elementary age children in regards to homework. In her defense, common elementary school objectives (especially in the younger grades) are socio-cultural (e.g. how to properly communicate in verbal and written form, developing a sense of time and punctuality, and mastery of fundamental cultural concepts like mutual respect). In reflection to the activities that she recommended for parents to participate in with their children, she really is lightly assigning homework, not only for the child but for the parents, that merely doesn’t fit with that we know culturally as homework. She is simply asking parents to reiterate what is being taught at school; to read, explore, and communicate effectively.





Kodippili, A., & Senaratne, D. (2008). Is computer-generated interactive mathematics homework more effective than traditional instructor-graded homework?. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 39(5), 928-932. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00794.x

Introduction to my Journey: Who is Megan?

In terms of education and the desire to be a part of the process, the majority (from my experience) of those who wish to be teachers seemed to have known it their whole lives. They already mentally chose the subject and age group they would influence for the next 30 years of their lives. I was not that person. I started at a community college in the UW system and realized that I was decent in English, so that was the path I followed through my first 4-year degree. While I was completing it, I worked various jobs until I found myself at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club in my hometown. It was there that I became a program coordinator and fell in love with the educational process. I enjoyed everything from the activity planning to the growth of each learning relationship (and let’s be real; all of the awesome school supplies).

After graduation, I worked in Madison, WI at a job that was comfortable, but lacked the luster that I saw in education, so after about 2 years I decided to enroll in school for Physical and Health Education. I realized that it was my passion back when I was in high school. I loved every aspect of athletic training, wellness, stress relief; the whole nine! Since my family health history was not A+, I took it upon myself early on to make those changes (seeing my dad at 55 years old appear to be closer to 80 due to poor health choices was more than enough motivation). Since high school was the age that I came to make my own choices, high school is the age group I aspire to teach. In regards to health and wellness, I believe that particular age group is more receptive to tools for positive self-change; physical or emotional.

Just because I decided to be an educator later in my scholastic career doesn’t mean I didn’t have teachers that influenced my decision to become one. I have a distinct memory of a conversation with my sophomore math teacher (who was in her late twenties at the time) about why I didn’t do homework but earned ‘A’s on all of my exams and tutored my classmates in some of the units. She was fun, knowledgeable, and most importantly, relatable. I never felt a sense of appraisal from her in terms of my aptitude or personality. She was clear in instruction and fair in her expectations. The conversation at her desk wasn’t to criticize or question me, but to merely make a statement. That statement stuck to the back of my mind ever since it was said: “Sometimes I think we [teachers] lose sight of what’s important and it takes someone to bring us back to why we are here. I hope you become a teacher someday. Don’t lose your perspective on what’s important.”

She reminded me very much of Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society; enthusiastic, intelligent, and (what I believe to be crucial in teaching) able to foster critical thinking and problem solving in the subject. Since math is a subject that contains many roots to the same outcome, she never hesitated to listen to a student’s differing way to solve a problem; if anything, she would use it as a segue into another concept!

The text assigned in the first week of this class had three main themes when it comes to being a good teacher; organization, enthusiasm, and knowledge. If she saw that I had all three when I was an emotional little rebel of a 15-year-old girl, who am I to not try to be the best educator I can be?


I got a B in that class and we still email each other from time to time. She couldn’t be more proud.