How to Promote Students to Learn McClelland’s Way

How to Motivate Students to Learn McClelland’s Way


Motivation tends to be that thingamajig that sparks action from people to conduct their will, and it does not appear to be a major consideration when asking people to do simple tasks, such as “sit up; complete your work.” Yet, motivation is the prime-key to eliciting the movement to sway individuals, and unless people are motivated in the manner that touches their inner core, motivation will remain inert.

Thus, what way is the best way to motivate learners?

According to McClelland’s Theory, three types of motivation describe the manner in which people should be influenced: Achievement, Affiliation, and Power.

McClelland postulates to keep achievers motivated, achievers must be placed in positions of meeting goals to measure as their accomplishments. Achievers’ feats must be challenging; feats must be encountered through conundrums that the average person would find difficult but the consummate achiever would find easy.

In a classroom setting, for example, students should be identified as achievers if they readily raise their hands to participate . . . if they gleam over making A’s on assignments and if they select the most intricate of all alternate projects. Achievers, McClelland asserts, enjoy working alone or with other people who are similar as they are in meeting challenges and in accomplishing goals.

To maintain levels as achievers, students appreciate teachers who provide immediate feedback on their assignments: Achievers wish to know what they are doing in a most excellent manner and what they may do in a more excellent manner.

Self-Question: Are student achievers the reason teachers desire to teach?

McClelland describes Affiliation as an entity that describes individuals that are motivated by working in groups. At the very least students of affiliation must work with a partner. In a school setting, if forced to work alone, students of affiliation will withdraw themselves from learning or submit class assignments with an “incomplete” stamp on their returned papers. Moreover, affiliation-types do not work well under pressure, preferring to understand precisely what to do without much creativity involved. Making A’s is not a primary goal of affiliation learners, yet making B’s is the least expected of themselves; lastly, students of affiliation do not desire attention among their peers; rather they appreciate privacy in the acknowledgement of their work.

Self-Question: Do teachers prefer dealing with students of affiliation than they prefer dealing with students of achievement, and why?

McClelland completes his theory of motivation by including “power” as a factor of recognizing students’ preferences of learning. In a school setting, McClelland claims students with a high need for power work best when they are in charge. They are cubs to the autocratic cougar who excel in competition and in goal-oriented projects, and they perform tasks in “their own way.” Power seekers are effective in negotiations, and winning is usually in their favor.

As a teacher, rather than suppressing power-type learners simply because they appear smarter than [you] the teacher, encourage the power learners. If students are young in age (10-17), be direct with them; help students make clear career goals. Some power-oriented students must make all A’s or else– speaking lightly–your teaching certificate may be challenged. Remember, therefore, winning is about power, and these power type students usually win.

Self-Question: In what way is a power student a threat to a teacher? Or, is the power student indeed a threat?

Other research seemingly supports McClleland’s theory of motivation. Sirota’s Three-Factor Theory is one such support, who reveals that workers (let’s say students) need to stay motivated and excited about what they are learning. Sirota’s theory relates to equity and fairness and achievement and camaraderie. These factors are necessary for motivation to swell within learners. Sirota’s theory further suggests that people start new with much motivation to do well. However, over time, due to a number of school unpopular rules and challenges, many students lose motivation to learn.

Subtlety, in a contrary fashion, McClelland’s theory is different in that Sirota’s equity, fairness . . . camaraderie are meshed motivator factors that influence people. Rather motivation is one or the other—achievement or affiliation or power, argues McClleland. These are the alternates that complement personalities to spur people to action.

Self-Question: Is motivation based on culture and life experiences? If so, how does this possibility influence student learning?

As teacher, when deciding the best way to motivate students to learn, consider what research presents, yet use your own assessment of the situation–your own students. Be mindful that although many motivational theories suggest one style over the other, not every style will be the right style for every student.

Suggestions for motivating students to learn:

(1) Devise a personal questionnaire to determine students’ weaknesses and strengths, and ask about students’ likes and dislikes to incite their curiosity about learning.

(2) Monitor students’ behavior the first two-weeks of school to quickly discern their work ethic, and begin to interact with them accordingly.

(3) Allow students to work in groups and to work alone. Determine their preferences, and then allow their preferences.

(4) Where possible, allow students autonomy in completing class assignments to provide students with a sense of empowerment.

(5) Deliver feedback in two to three days— compliments first, improvements second.

(6) Reward good grades— A’s or B’s—on completion of any assignment to ensure students’ continuance and to protect their self-esteem.

Cynthia Mathews, Ed. D. 2020

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Published by cynthiamathews

I'm an innovative spirit, one who seeks new and practical ways to learn about life. I enjoy exploring innovative styles to motivate people to persevere in a challenging world. Having a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Curriculum & Instruction, I am inspired to maintain a life long learning experience that will allow me to share my knowledge with others. My expertise includes detecting apathy in individuals and prescribing ways to motivate them to be their best. To initiate this endeavor, I create and conduct personal and professional development programs. I write briefs and pamphlets and instructional guides to inspire, and I speak--upon request--to those who need a reminder of their inner excellence. My blog's main focus is to document my research on motivation and curriculum instruction and to share with subscribers the understanding, the ideas, and the strategies that result from my research. I am a native of Alabama, a teacher, and an author. I look forward to learning with you.