Students often have their own internal set of beliefs about their ability. This internal belief along with actual ability, may play a role in their overall success on a task. Theories of intelligence have uncovered differences in the ways students approach achievement based on those beliefs about their ability. One example are the ‘entity’ and ‘incremental’ theories.
Students who believe that intelligence is fixed or a fixed quantity (entity theory) are concerned with proving their intelligence with performance goals, however, if there is a high risk of failure, they will tend to disengage. These students are vulnerable to decreased performance when they feel they risk failure. Students who view intelligence as acquirable (incremental) are said to be more effective learners and value opportunity to increase their ability through effort. These students are more likely to select tasks that offer real opportunities for improvement, and are more likely to follow up with remedial activities when they experience difficulty.
Students of the incremental theory type learner like goals which they see as contributing to and challenging their learning and increasing their competence. Students of the entity theory type learner like goals which are based around performance and gaining favourable judgements of their competence.
How an individual student conceptualises goals is an indication as to the type of learner they are and the types of responses they will have to certain tasks. Students can adopt a pattern of adaptive or maladaptive behaviour in response to tasks and their conceptualisation of goals. These issues have implications for motivation. Both types of learners place a high value on their ability and intelligence, however, they structure their experiences differently and follow different courses of action.
What type of learners do you have and how do you present and structure activities and learning tasks? Do you set goals and challenges which enhance student motivation for their learning? As a studio music teacher, it is important to have strategies which increase our students’ motivation for practice. Often, the music alone may be enough, and it is great to have students who are self-directed and come in each week and are improving all the time. However, when faced with students who seem to be struggling or lacking in motivation, other ideas need to be employed. Of course there are so many variables in such a situation, but having some strategies which really tap into what really makes a student tick and suits their own learner identity, is a step in the right direction.