Guessing Motivation

We can never judge another person’s motivation with complete accuracy. Within a classroom where all the students look as if they are doing the same thing—perhaps quietly and cooperatively completing their assignments—some will be operating to receive a good grade or please the teacher and some will be putting forth effort to learn because they understand that success comes with effort. The teacher may have guesses about the motivation of each student but they are only guesses.

A person’s motivation can be accurately determined ONLY by the person him/herself. That is why it is important that teachers ask questions to promote self-reflection in students. With this approach, we are not TELLING the student what WE think of their actions and their motivations. Ideally, we are striving to help them evaluate what THEY think about their own actions and motivations.

The more attention given to concretely providing specific examples of the highest level in the Hierarchy of Social Development and discussing the benefits of acting on this level, the more likely that young people will be motivated to aspire to this level.

This is one way in which teachers can influence young people. Paradoxically, WHEN SOMETHING IS OFFERED AS A VOLUNTARY CHOICE, IT BECOMES ALL THE MORE ATTRACTIVE.

Using the hierarchy, we can actually show students what it is they need to do in order to be operating at the highest level of social/personal development. In fact, this is the ONLY discipline and learning system that provides such information to students.

Within an environment of positivity, and with a conscious effort on the part of the teacher to find meaningful and frequent opportunities to discuss the hierarchy, you will find that many students will CHOOSE to take advantage of that information on a more regular basis.

Thanks to Kerry Weisner. Check out her blog at Discipline Answers.

Also, more information on this topic is available at