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Motivating Students: How Teacher Language Can Cultivate Child Motivation

Presenters Name: 
Gracie Tilman
Co Presenters Name: 
Primary Research Mentor: 
Jamie Jirout
Secondary Research Mentor: 
2:00 - 3:15
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 2:00pm to 3:15pm
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Social Science
Grant Program Recipient: 
USOAR Program

How can teacher language motivate students to ask questions and think more deeply? This research, under the supervision of Dr. Jamie Jirout, sought to answer that question by investigating the impact of teachers’ rhetoric in preschool classrooms on children’s curiosity and motivation. In one wing of the project, we coded videos of classroom instruction for motivation-promoting language—specifically, language that might promote mastery versus performance goals, praise that could encourage growth versus fixed mindset beliefs, and instruction inspiring task versus spatial autonomy. While the results are still being compiled and analyzed, one initial finding seems to show that performance-based instruction is more prevalent than mastery-based. This can have major implications for children’s motivation, as performance-focused language promotes memorization and “correctness” over deeper learning and understanding. Thus, when a student faces a difficult problem, will they give up or keep trying? Could the student’s decision have anything to do with their exposure to motivation-promoting language as a child? As presented in this research, teacher language may be a key factor in determining child motivation in the classroom.