What enthused Thomas Alfa Edison to read so much that all the books available in the library in his city (including works of English Literature, American History, and scientific books) were completely consumed when he was eight to eleven years old? Why is Lionel Messi willing to drain his energy and keep on passionately practicing football since he was four years? Various researches on motivation show that they are two examples of people who have succeeded in developing an interest in a particular field. In all types of professions, occupations, and activities (including in learning), interest plays a central role and promotes success. It triggers a positive attitude and encourages an individual to pay attention and be involved in what he is interested in. This article discusses two types of interests and reveals how to use them to succeed in studies.
Interest is the feeling that encourages someone to favor, care, appreciate, pay attention, and be involved in an activity, object, or phenomenon. Dewey (1913, p. 17) described it as ‘‘being engaged, engrossed, or entirely taken up with’’ an activity, object, or topic. In daily life, if we are interested in something, we will care, like, appreciate, consider it important, want to know more, and voluntarily afford time and energy to it. In short, we put all priorities to our interest. Interest is seen in phrases such as “I like playing tennis”, “His interest in preserving Lake Toba environment is high”, “She likes Jazz “, or Lily is fond of teaching.”
Interests have two types: individual and situational (Renninger, 2000). Individual interest is permanent, long-lasting, and describes the character of the owner. Edison’s interest in reading and Messi’s interest in football has developed in such a way that whenever, wherever, and in any situation, they will be motivated to read or play football. Conversely, situational interest is temporary and depends on the situation. Some people choose to watch television during the holidays. But when he had karaoke equipment, he forgot TV and chose karaoke. On another holiday, he will probably choose to go to a tourist spot.
Situational interests can be developed into personal interests by developing three factors contributing to the development of interest: knowledge, positive emotions, and personal values (Hidi & Renninger, 2006). A person who keeps on increasing knowledge and practicing playing the piano will eventually become more interested in playing the instrument. That knowledge and skills development will also grow his positive emotions to the piano for he has been more competent and adept at playing it. In addition, the longer he studies and practices the piano, the more likely he is to find his identity (personal values) in it. Edison’s interest in reading did not grow automatically. In the beginning, his father paid one penny every time he finished reading a book. Over time, the reading activity took place automatically. He no longer needed to be paid to read. He even felt life incomplete if he spent a day without reading. His reading interest provided Edison an extensive insight into science, and this encouraged him to develop his own laboratory for doing experiments. As a result, he produced 1,093 patents is recorded as the greatest inventor in the world. Messi’s interest did not grow naturally, too. His fondness in football emerged after regularly seeing his father trained a football club. It drove him to engage in the training. His great interest, supported by his strong willingness to practice, finally made Messi known as one of the world greatest footballers ever.
Interest undoubtedly plays an important role in one’s success in every walks of life, including learning. Learning a subject without interest will surely end with failure. Interest in a topic is the mental or motivational force that energizes learning and produces higher performance and achievements (Hidi, 1990). It induces students to persist with a task, even if it is difficult; it focuses their attention on the task and produces positive affect regarding the task and the result of this is learning. Additionally, Schiefele et.al. (1992) research shows that individual student interest correlates with his academic performance and work in the laboratory. Therefore, every student who wants to succeed must develop an interest in the discipline and each subject he is studying. Students with a high interest will feel a great loss if they spend time doing something unrelated to the field they are studying.
What should you do to develop an interest? Just take these three steps. First, keep adding your knowledge about each subject you are studying. If your lecturer asks you study five textbooks for one course, master these five books and find some other books or articles to enrich your mastery of the subject. Your knowledge development will automatically increase your interest in the subject. Second, Increase and satisfy your curiosity about the topic you are learning. Curiosity is a turbo engine of mind. The greater your curiosity, the more energy you have to satisfy your curiosity, and the higher your positive emotions will be. Third, find out the benefits you will obtain if you have mastered the subject. You can do this by relating the subject to your future career. By understanding that relationship, your personal values to the course will definitely increase.
To conclude, if you want to succeed in your study, you must first develop an interest in the field you are taking. If you think your interest is not as high as Edison or Messi’s, develop it before it is too late. All you have to do is to increase knowledge, positive emotions, and personal values. Sowing interest will surely reap success. (Jakarta, 29 November 2018).
Dewey, J. (1913). Interest and effort in education. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press
Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41, 111–127.
Renninger, K. A. (2000). Individual interest and its implications for understanding intrinsic motivation. In C. Sansone & J. M. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Search for Optimal Motivation and Performance (pp. 373–404). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.
Schiefele, U., Krapp, A., & Winteler, A. (1992). Interest as a predictor of academic achievement: A meta-analysis of research. In K. A. Renninger, S. Hidi & A. Krapp (Eds.), The Role of Interest in Learning and Development (pp. 183–211). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum