Demand and Desire : A psychoanalytic contribution to understanding the problems of student motivation
This paper is concerned with the ways in which law students approach their studies. In particular, it focuses on the issue of motivation. The ideal of pedagogy is the intrinsically motivated learner - that is, a learner who seeks to master the learning task itself. Such a learner is believed to be more likely to adopt a 'deep' approach to learning, and thus to achieve better learning outcomes. Educational psychology places considerable emphasis on the teacher's role in encouraging individuals to conform to this ideal. However, despite the considerable advances in pedagogy in Australian law schools in recent years, anecdotal evidence suggests that some law teachers remain frustrated by the apparent lack of intrinsic motivation in many of their students. Indeed, teachers complain of an increasing tendency toward surface learning approaches, a lack of curiosity and independence in learning, and an emphasis on credentialism. This paper offers an alternative reading of student behaviour to that of educational psychology, derived primarily from the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan. Instead of focusing on motivation, this reading highlights the role of desire. Such a reading provides a very different explanation for student behaviour. It suggests that the ideal of educational literature - the intrinsically motivated, 'deep' learner - is likely to be the exception, rather than the norm in our classroom (if, indeed, such a learner exists at all). This being the case, we may need to rethink our expectations of our students, and our strategies for dealing with student 'motivational' problems.
Griffith Law Review
Law not elsewhere classified