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Students’ Motivation to Learn Chemistry – Polish Scene

Magdalena Gałaj

Wyższa Szkoła Informatyki w Łodzi, Poland

[email protected]


Despite the subject the students are studying at school or university, motivation is a key element of their education and plays a crucial role in the success of the overall teaching-learning process. There are two kinds of motivation. Intrinsic motivation occurs when people are internally motivated to do something because it either brings them pleasure, they think it is important, or they feel that what they are learning is significant. Extrinsic motivation comes into play when a student is compelled to do something or act a certain way because of external factors. The article presents the results of research concerning the students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for learning chemistry in Poland.

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Comments about this Paper

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Date: 2014.04.25

Posted by Untung Nugroho Harwanto (Turkey)

Message: Students’ motivation is one of the most important factors effecting their successful achievement in the class. Students’ motivation takes apart in effecting their successful not only in the class but also for their future. According to the Ornek, Robinson and Haugan (2008), there are some of students-controlled factor, such as lack of motivation, not studying more, not reading the textbook, not completing assignment, not doing practice many problems, not doing homework, lack of previous experience, lack of science background, and lack of higher level mathematics. We can categorize the students-controlled factors into 3 groups. The first group is the lack of motivation and interest. The second group of factor relates to not working hard enough. And the last group of factors is background knowledge.
For the first group, students and teachers all agree that the lack of motivation and interest is an important issue for not being successful in physics. The second group includes not studying more, not reading the textbook, not completing assignment, not doing many practice problems, and not doing homework. All teachers agree that their students do not work hard enough. It is interesting that the students also believed that not working hard enough was an important factor for them. The last group is background knowledge. This group is composed of lack of previous experience, lack of science background, and lack of higher level mathematics. Interestingly, teachers and student believe that is lack of background knowledge is not the most important obstacle to success.

Date: 2012.10.31

Posted by Teresa de Jesus Calvo Pinto (Portugal)

Message: I found the article very interesting. It presents the results of a research study performed at a school in Poland dealing with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to learn chemistry. Moreover, it addresses some proposals to increase student’s motivation to study science and chemistry in particular.
Nowadays, only a small percentage of students present intrinsic motivation to learn chemistry. This intrinsic motivation refers to the pleasure of performing an activity, being involved with a personal project, getting satisfaction from learning.
The article states that student’s lack of motivation to study chemistry is related to the belief that chemistry is a very difficult subject only accessible to students with special skills, and with the fact that chemistry related careers are not financially profitable. I could add that the negative social image of chemical industry and the lack of information on careers and professional activities using chemistry scientific and technological knowledge also contribute to this fact.
The article considers that the main obstacles to be faced by students in order to understand chemistry are related to teacher’s personality, teaching strategies and used methodologies. Although teacher's personality is important I think that the key factor is, undoubtedly, the teaching-learning process.
Learning effectiveness passes through student’s involvement, i.e., the emotional and intellectual commitment in a task, whatever is the starting point in a given field of chemistry knowledge. The teacher may encourage student’s involvement by putting tasks in the form of challenges, clarifying the objectives of each task, providing resources and sources of information and by encouraging autonomy and sense of responsibility. Teachers can also contextualize chemistry through everyday life examples, so students get involved by describing the phenomena, questioning and testing hypotheses, interpreting results and handling equipment.
The paper describes a set of proposals to increase student’s motivation, but it could include student’s feedback, which is in my opinion essential. The students upon involved in the evaluation process is able to develop the following attitudes and competencies:
- Critical sense and reflexive attitude in their learning and tasks;
- Learning evolution and metacognitive aspects;
- Sense of responsibility in their learning;
- Cooperation within in team work.
The paper states that experiments and demonstrations should cover most of the program. In fact, the experimental activities play a fundamental role not only to operationalize the ideas, but also to develop scientific skills. However, to make this possible, school must be equipped with the needed facilities to accomplish the activities listed in the approved curricula.
I consider extremely interesting the reported cooperation between higher education institutions and secondary schools in Poland, as well as teacher’s involvement through various activities and events to popularize chemistry among young publics.
Summarizing, the article presents several interesting proposals concerning the way in which students should be engaged to learn science, in particular chemistry, and its implementation in a classroom environment.
In my opinion, to promote and improve motivation, students must be active and responsible in the learning process, because no teacher's external action will be successful if it is not understood and internalized by the student. Teacher’s role should be directed towards constructing educational contexts that are able to stimulate student's self-learning, as well as, acting as a mediator in a sharing environment promoting an open interaction.

Date: 2012.09.28

Posted by GALINA KIROVA KIROVA (Bulgaria)

Message: The paper provides results of a research concerning the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of students for learning chemistry. It describes in details the causes for students’ motivation and reports a correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The disturbing fact is that a small percentage of those surveyed find intrinsic motivation important, although they feel curious to learn and are aware of the significant role of chemistry for their future.
The belief that studying chemistry requires special talents is one of the reasons for students’ lack of motivation. This idea is often supported by some teachers as well. Not every student can perceive that the efforts they exert to learn will pay off later.
As it is in Bulgaria, theory-based lessons discourage students to a great extent. Experiments and demonstrations should cover most of the content. Students should be encouraged to apply their own initiative and creativity and stimulated to use their imagination and logical and critical thinking.
The author of the paper defines students’ desire of self-developing, gaining significant knowledge and improving skills as a type of intrinsic motivation. External factors, such as the choice of specific teaching methods and forms of teacher-student interaction, are also important. Great importance is placed on teacher’s personality as well. And I fully agree that teachers can inspire students and manage their motivation. They diagnose students’ needs and adapt the learning process to their interests. Since motivation is based on individual needs and interests, it is quite logical to conclude that successful learning depends on students’ desire to achieve it.
According to the Polish model, the transition from passive to active learning can be encouraged through small group discussions and involvement in more open-ended type of activities. I find these two approaches quite relevant to employ in our schools.
Another feature of the Polish model that appeals to me is the cooperation between high schools and universities and the way university teachers give lectures among secondary level students to popularize chemistry. The paper offers a useful approach to familiarizing students with the recent scientific achievements by visiting research centers and chemical plants.
What I find extremely important, as well as quite feasible is the integration of practical knowledge into the curriculum.

Possible suggestions to consider for teaching resources:
50 Really Cool Online Tools for Science Teachers
Limerick Institute of Technology

Possible suggestions to consider for teaching resources:

The resource is very useful. It provides a variety of information and combines knowledge of different natural sciences, thus allowing inter-subject relation and stimulating varied interests. There is a wide choice of topics which provoke inquisitiveness.

The site is of great scientific and educational value. The interesting part of chemistry is the Periodic table. The in-depth details of each chemical element that it gives attract students’ interest which in turn leads to learning enhancement. Students find the answers to many element-related matters, such as the way chemical elements were discovered, their properties and use. The resource is scientifically reliable. It includes a wide range of activities, video materials, articles about scientists and useful information.

The resource can be used in the classroom in order to encourage discussion and to increase awareness. The video materials are short enough to be used in each lesson for illustrating the periodic properties of the elements. The good thing of the site is that it provides specific video material for each element, thus expanding students’ knowledge. With teachers’ help, students should be challenged to seek and find what is best for their personal development. This site appears to be in support of new teaching strategy which favours the idea that students should be taught how to learn. The innovative approaches of teaching and learning (use of similar online tools, for example) encourage students’ independence, no matter how old they are, and build their confidence.

The “visual visit” to the laboratory can influence students’ attitude and increase their interest in continuing their study of chemistry. To see chemistry vivid is the best way to make theoretical concept meaningful to students.

The tools available on the site facilitate the work of the teacher providing quick, easy to understand and attractive way to present the teaching material. The video part related to the application of elements has an emotional effect. Emotions can have a powerful effect on memory. Most of the things we remember depend on our emotional state.
The site is a good example of how students should be engaged in science learning.. The textbook can not provoke imagination the way this online tool does. The experiments are demonstrated through the proper equipment and experience, which is difficult to do in the normal school lab.

Date: 2012.09.16

Posted by Theodoros Vachliotis (Greece)

Message: This paper is relevant because it presents the results of a research activity conducted in a Polish High School, which was related with the intrinsic and extrinsic motives of students for studying and learning chemistry. In addition, this paper makes some proposals for enhancing student motivation in relation with chemistry.

The paper refers to factors that discourage students to get interested in the study of chemistry. It is logical that someone will get interested in learning chemistry if he/she believes it will be a profitable choice. Unfortunately, for reasons that are related with the educational system and the (worldwide) social structure in general, most students get motivated to engage in a subject only if they consider that it can contribute to a good professional development, basically from the financial point of view. Another reason for student’s lack of motivation is related to the fact that they consider chemistry difficult to grasp. Even though the in-depth understanding of the concepts of physical sciences can be a difficult task, I believe that the way these concepts are presented to the students is a more decisive factor.

According to the paper, the major obstacles that students face in their effort to understand chemistry are related with the school textbooks, the teacher’s personality and the teaching strategies and methodological approaches. I personally agree that these are factors that one should concentrate on. Among these three obstacles, I believe that the third one (ie the teaching – learning process) is the most important, since the basis for the creation of a motive to engage in something is the possibility of understanding it. If a student understands something, (or feels that he/she is able to understand it), then at least he/she will not show aversion towards it from the very beginning. At a second level, it can be possible with certain actions to trigger interest and create motivation to learn.

The paper does not make reference to previous empirical research related with students’ motivation to study chemistry. It however presents some proposals that could be used in achieving this goal. These proposals focus on the science textbooks, teacher’s personality and the teaching methods/approaches. By excluding the textbooks which is a factor that cannot be influenced by the teacher, I believe that the two other proposals can be applicable in the teaching praxis. Of course, teacher’s personality is a variable that cannot change easily. However, things can improve in this respect via specific actions such as the acquisition of more specialized knowledge (for example via teacher training seminars) and the personal effort of the teacher. In relation with the teaching approaches there exist several options as follows: the student-centered approach with emphasis on inquiry and POE, the acquisition of practical knowledge with everyday life applications, group discussions and collaborative learning, use of alternative teaching material besides the standard textbook. These proposals can be realistic under specific circumstances, which are mostly related with allocated teaching time, teaching load and infrastructure.

The paper does not discuss the difficulties of chemistry teachers to keep update to the continuous progresses of research.

The paper does not refer to the results of specific research efforts aimed at studying the factors that influence the successful implementation of the proposals made.

Date: 2012.08.29

Posted by David Sutton (Ireland)

Message:  Why is this paper relevant? The article discusses research concerning the students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for learning chemistry in Poland. With some suggestions as to possible/suitable course work and pedagogies.
 Does the paper explain the causes for the students’ lack of motivation to study chemistry?
If yes, do you consider them relevant? Why? There is a real relevance to the article in this regard which find support with my thoughts on the matter. It proposes that for large numbers of young people the rewards in learning chemistry are perceived as simply not worth the effort. Many see chemistry is seen as a difficult, remote subject, one that requires special intellectual talents to learn and one that neither they nor the vast majority of the public needs to comprehend in order to live a happy productive life. This ‘belief’ is often reinforced by guidance counsellors (GC’s) and teachers in non-science disciplines. Many GC’s planning careers in professions requiring chemistry doubt that the effort they exert to learn it will pay off.
 Does the paper explain the students’ obstacles in addressing chemistry?
If yes, do you consider them relevant? Why? Yes but in a very broad interpretation of the term ‘obstacles’. The paper identifies that obstacles should be realised in practice after first diagnosing students needs, capabilities, getting to know their learning styles and ways of motivation. In doing so it places an understanding of the students’ abilities, limitations etc. central to the understanding of the term obstacles examples of such in the area are ‘the subject difficult’.
 Does the paper / publication report successful experiences in motivating students to study chemistry? The paper suggests directing student’s attention and the whole learning process towards practical knowledge, by showing them the usefulness and usability of the taught concepts in real life. According to the research intrinsic motivation related to sheer will to learn something, broadening horizons and deepening knowledge is less important for students than external motivation full of approval from the teacher or parents and the possibility of receiving good or better grades. The role of the teacher in students’ learning chemistry is restricted rather to making students aware of the significant role of the chemistry in life, by showing this branch of science in context and explaining its usability in society..
 Does the paper / publication presents the difficulties of chemistry teachers to keep update to the continuous progresses of the research?
If yes, do you agree with the situation described? The topic of ‘progress of research’ in chemistry is implied but not discussed at length as it is not the core of the article.
 Does the paper / publication propose solutions to in order to exploit at secondary school level the most recent findings in the filed of chemistry?
If yes, do you consider this solution feasible? No. What is more in evidence is the different pedagogies which may be employed such as POE strategy (Prediction-Observation-Explanation) as well as a sample of appropriate topics which are more applied in nature.

Is the teaching resource described useful for you?
Why? Yes. There are suggestions and information which are employable in the areas of teaching chemistry and a greater understanding of the learner’s motivation.
 Do you think it can increase the students’ interest toward chemistry?
Why? No. It deals with the delivery of the subject and the learner type.
 Do you think it can help the students to understand better and faster?
Why? As above
 Do you think it propose an innovative didactical approach?
Why? Approach to what? Teaching? Teaching of chemistry? Understanding of the learner? Understanding of the public perception of science? Assuming that this is a peer reviewed journal/conference article, it is automatic that it is an acceptance approach in whatever context ‘didactical’ is being employed in the question. If the question is trying to ascertain - is it good and did I gain knowledge? My answer is - Yes.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.