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Diametric Motivational Approach

All teachers aspire to nurture their students' holistic development. Diametric Motivational Approach (DMA) combines four different reinforcements (social incentive, progress monitoring, immediate reward, and evaluating consequences) in order to reach the possible full potential of every learner. Its modest origin, scientific foundation, and prospective reach could explain its role in sustainable education.

DMA’s Origin

DMA was conceptualized by Tan and Bensal (2021) in their simple hope to address the common challenges encountered by academic writing teachers – students' late submission, substandard works, and plagiarized papers. Given their teaching backgrounds and experiences, they found Sharot’s (2011) Optimism Bias (OB) and Enactive Learning (EL) (Bandura, 1986, as cited in Feist et al., 2018) both compelling. Henceforth, they utilized these two frameworks to assess their potencies in the academic writing setup. As shown in the illustration below, 6 academic writing classes were observed as they received OB, EL, and OB/EL respectively.

To understand better, the next illustration shows the specific approaches that were applied to the 6 classes accordingly.

As Tan and Bensal postulated on page 602:

combining OB and EL showed a positive effect on the students’ writing attitude. That is, they will be acknowledged and rewarded when they correctly comply with the tasks and will be reprimanded when they violate the rules. Consequently, the students' plagiarism instances were reduced because they could clearly decipher the ramifications of committing plagiarism and writing properly. This can prove the importance of a balanced implementation of OB and EL in the writing class because they can see both consequences of their actions. Considering this affirming result, the researchers of this study have drawn a new motivational approach that could better assist students of academic writing/research subjects - the Diametric Motivational Approach (DMA).

Therefore, DMA is the application of two opposite extreme theories to achieve balance and holistic development of the learners. As they said, through DMA “both sides of the coin [were] surmised to make the students grounded on reality (no false hopes) and lifelong learners (as the neuroscientists claimed)” (p. 603).

Scientific Foundation

DMA does not just aim to make the target learners excel at their current task or at their subject. This theory also hopes to train them to have soft skills (e.g., mindfulness and flexibility) that can make them honorable members of the society.

This idea is possible because DMA is grounded on the previous scientific studies done by respected neuroscientists. For example, Sharot’s (2011) OB explained that social incentive, progress monitoring, and immediate reward could trigger certain parts of the brain to motivate people to take some actions.

In a more detailed study by Edelson et al. (2011), their "findings suggest a mechanism by which social influence produces long-lasting alterations in memory, and they highlight the critical role of the amygdala in mediating this influence" (para. 15). This is also called the positive social circle (PSC). They explained that if OB’s three principles are applied, an individual is more likely to follow because the functions of the hippocampus and amygdala in the brain are greatly influenced by what it predicts to be pleasant to them and society. Additionally, they highlighted the fact that its effect may come later for others but it will certainly be a permanent transformation for all who experienced these.

Similar to Edelson et al.'s claim are studies by Somerville et al. (2013) and Eagleman (2015), who both explained how some regions of the brain react to rewards and incentives received by adolescents. Somerville et al. specifically pertained to the medial prefrontal cortex and striatum's strong connection during the adolescent stage. They said that these two brain regions are both responsible for developing motivations to actions. Further, Eagleman explained that a specific brain area called nucleus accumbens or NAC is the main pleasure center. He claimed that this part of the brain is highly activated when adolescents receive rewards.

On the other hand, by telling negative or scary stories that may happen if the learners plagiarize could trigger certain emotions or feelings that could make them properly process their decision making. As Eagleman posited, “emotions do more than add richness to our lives – they’re also the secret behind how we navigate what to do next at every moment” (p. 110). The orbitofrontal cortex is the one in charge of “the summary of the situation”. That means, it can help the learners’ physiological signature to create the idea of what must be avoided and must not. By activating EL, specifically making the learners evaluate negative consequences that happen during plagiarism, the learners are trained to evade cheating or getting other people’s works without proper acknowledgement.

Indeed, the utilization of DMA in academic writing class could not just help teachers and students but it could also produce a bigger effect of creating a more honest and humane society – the very essence of sustainable education.

Prospective Reach.

Although the initial study of DMA was implemented to just address the academic major hurdles of both teachers and students in a Philippine private university, it is important to note that DMA could create deep-rooted lessons to the students that they can confidently bring to the workforce. Equally salient to consider, DMA being new and unexplored has its latency. Tan and Bensal stated some notes for recommendation in their paper. They suggested executing this to graduate students and to EFL students as well. It would likewise be meaningful if this could be tried out in other subjects, nationalities, and to employees too.

The most interesting and promising of all, for DMA to be applied by parents and young learners’ teachers. For example, parents could also do similar approaches to their kids. Parents could praise and commend them for obeying, give corrective feedback if they commit mistakes, give small prizes for doing extra chores, and telling them consequential stories of lying, cheating, and the like. By doing these, parents could make them feel loved, secured, and grounded all at the same time. Over and beyond, parents are playing a vital role to their children as they are teaching them how to become motivated, responsible, and conscientious citizens of our society.

Give DMA a try and let us know your findings.


Feist, J., Feist, G., & Roberts, T. A. (2018). Theories of personality (9th ed.). McGraw-Hill Companies.

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Feb 12

Bensal (2021) emphasized the importance of DMA in producing lessons that students can bring into the workplace. This approach delivers the benefits of the DMA in a way that maximizes usage even after the students graduate. Considering everything, the diametric motivational approach gives students a better opportunity to stay determined by recognizing their hardship through rewards.


Feb 07

Emotions do more than add richness to our lives – they’re also the secret behind how we navigate what to do next at every moment, furthermore, emotions provide us with social cues that signal to the how we perceive others with, whether it be cooperation, avoiding negative situations, and most importantly, boost motivation. In this case, motivation, towards sustainable learning within the DMA learning framework.


Feb 05

Above all, parents play a crucial role in shaping their children's character, instilling values that foster motivation, responsibility, and conscientiousness. It's truly heartening to witness this part of the article since I agree that parents have a major impact on molding the future members of our society, which is key in guiding them toward becoming engaged and contributing citizens.


Feb 05

DMA does not just aim to make the target learners excel at their current task or at their subject (Bensal, 2021). This theory also hopes to train them to have soft skills (e.g., mindfulness and flexibility) that can make them honorable members of the society. I find it interesting that by including soft skills into consideration, it proves DMA reflects a broader educational goal. This also emphasizes holistic development beyond academics.


Feb 04

Bensal (2021) suggests that parents can teach their children important values by using the Diametric Motivational Approach (DMA) in the form of praise, corrective feedback, prizes and consequential stories. This approach can clearly invoke motivation and encourage learners to branch out and commit as many mistakes. This helps them understand that in order to learn, we must make mistakes first.

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