Motivation refers to a person’s urge to behave or act in a way that will satisfy certain conditions or needs which mainly includes wishes, desires, or goals. Several mental health professionals believe that motivation is rooted in a basic impulse to optimize well-being, minimize physical pain, and maximize pleasure. Motivation is considered to be a necessary perquisite to learning as it energises a student to work towards attaining a certain goal in other words, it provides a sense of purpose to the actions.
Also, temporary school closures and home confinement has led to decreased motivation among students to achieve their academic goals. Too many changes in a short period of time and not having a fixed academic schedule has caused tremendous uncertainty among students.
Classes are being conducted remotely in online mode since almost 2 years worldwide due to which institutions have been unable to establish proper learning goals and assessment methods. There have been adverse effects on the academic performance, mental health and overall wellbeing of students especially in the secondary and tertiary educational settings due to severe academic stress. This in turn has led to reduced student motivation and academic disengagement.
The education sector is mainly exam centric and unpredictability has had a huge impact on performance as a consequence of irregular assessment tools and lack of adequate supervision. When students don’t get to see the result of their hard work, their willingness to put efforts goes down i.e their motivation goes down.
School and home have contrasting environmental settings that require the students to play two entirely different roles. In online mode, the line differentiating these two roles gets blurry which can cause confusion and distress among students. The decreasing attention span and distractibility are a direct result of insufficient supervision and little to no pressure to pay attention or participate in class activities. In a physical class room setting students are forced to focus their attention on what is being taught and participate in class discussions as they are aware that they are being evaluated on the basis of their performance and the presence of classmates increases their competitive spirit.
Students believe that the new way of learning is restrictive and is holding them back from achieving and experiencing new things. They are reportedly displeased with the new way of learning because they are tired of the same monotonous routine and are also unable to interact with their peers. Many feel that they have the potential to do better however they lack the motivation to work towards it.
Additionally, students who used to find it challenging to engage in school activities earlier, the restrictive measures have further hindered their willingness and motivation to take part in attending online classes or studying.
According to the multidimensional nature of motivation, achievement motivation is related to positive academic skills and outcomes. This includes self-regulation, need for academic achievement, critical thinking, persistence, completion of school, career success, goal-oriented behaviour, physical health, psychological and overall wellbeing.
Another factor to be considered is familial relations. Family problems like financial instability and major changes in family dynamics like divorcing parents or death of a loved one can negatively affect the students in multiple facets including school performance. During online mode, the students are more likely to encounter stressful experiences at home on a daily basis which can increase their risk of developing mental health issues. This may result in lack of interest and lost focus towards education.
Referring to the self-determination theory of motivation, students often tend to become more intrinsically motivated when they feel like their need for competence, autonomy and relatedness in a learning task is being satisfied. Competence refers to one’s need of being effective while trying to achieve their goals and have purposeful social interactions. In an educational setting, a student’s need for competence is satisfied when they are able to effectively achieve outcomes for example by receiving positive feedback for a task, they put efforts into. Autonomy refers to the need of an individual to direct their own work and life, it is an internal source of motivation. In an educational setting it’s believed that a student’s intrinsic motivation is increased when the tasks being performed are under their control, whereas external factors like deadlines may hamper their perception of control and can decrease intrinsic motivation. Relatedness refers to one’s need to feel emotionally connected to oneself and others. A student’s need for relatedness can be fulfilled when teachers and classmates create a supportive and authentic environment for them. Hence, according to the self-determination theory, if any of these three psychological needs are not met, it may lead to lack of initiative and decreased interest which will ultimately lead to low motivation among students.
Recently, the need and importance of extra-curricular activities in all levels of education has been emphasised by several researchers. Extra-curricular activities refer to optional activities which help stimulate emotional, physical and motor development outside the confinement of a classroom setting. It may include sports like football, basketball, badminton or clubs like chess, dance, music among others, whichever may appeal to the student’s interests. These activities encourage peer interactions, helps them understand the importance of team building and cooperation, provides a structure, challenges them and are therefore considered the proximal drivers of wholistic development.
Extra-curricular activities are considered to be a vital part of a student’s psychosocial development and it also helps them stimulate their need for achievement. It has also been proved through several researches that students who are actively involved in extra-curricular activities have increased interest and motivation in all school related activities including academics. In online mode, the students are deprived of such activities and exposure which may or may not lead to academic disengagement.
Certain strategies that may help students stay motivated during this time may include:
Setting small daily goals: One should realise that these are not normal times, and it’s important to lower and manage our expectations as its unrealistic to expect peak productivity/ performance or extraordinary results. Setting small daily goals which are easier to track and can be feasibly tackled in a day can help one stay on track and maintain or increase their motivation. Less work pressure and flexible deadlines from the institute or teachers can also help students achieve this.
Including extracurricular activities in our daily routine: In order to avoid the monotony of daily life especially with the same schedule, one should make a conscious effort of including extracurricular activities in their daily routine or dedicate a chunk of their time to their hobbies like painting, dancing, exercising, anything that helps them relax.
Prioritising your mental health: When daily life stressors and anxiety seem unmanageable it is almost next to impossible to keep ourselves motivated. In order to cope with this, it’s necessary for students to take small breaks, incorporate physical exercise in their daily routine, get sufficient amount of sleep and have healthy interactions with peers or friends. In case, they feel extremely disturbed or have gone through something traumatic, they shouldn’t feel hesitant towards seeking professional help.
Virtual get-togethers with friends: It can get extremely emotionally taxing for students when there is a lack of social interaction. However, social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean having no social life. With the technology being so advanced, students can easily talk to their friends through video chatting, they can also play games and watch movies together virtually. It may not compensate for in-person interactions but it does help students build and maintain healthy relationships with their friends and peers.