Girraween High School

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Motivation is an integral component in education and student wellbeing.

Virtually all students are motivated in one way or another. One student may be keenly interested in classroom subject matter and seek out challenging coursework, participate actively in class discussions and earn high marks on assigned projects. Another student may be more concerned with the social side of school, interacting with classmates frequently. Another may be focused on sport, excelling in playing or watching sports most afternoons and weekends, and faithfully following a physical fitness regimen. Yet another student, perhaps due to an undetected learning disability, a shy temperament, or a seemingly uncoordinated body, may be motivated to avoid academia, social situations, or athletic activities. Above all, in considering motivation it is important to recognise that demotivation is rarely the cause for concern. Regularly, the dilemma that students can face is misdirected or misapplied motivation.

The following factors are worth considering and discussing with your son or daughter:

Motivation is a complex topic explored by numerous psychologists and educational theorists. To understand the notion of motivation requires a consideration of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation arises from a desire to learn a topic due to its inherent interests, for self-fulfillment, enjoyment and to achieve a mastery of the subject. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is the motivation to perform and succeed for the sake of accomplishing a specific result or outcome. Students who are extremely marks-oriented are extrinsically motivated, whereas students who seem to truly embrace their work and take a genuine interest in it are intrinsically motivated. The impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is increasingly apparent in the following areas that can influence motivation (a) and (b):

(a) The relationship that a student has with their teacher is a key factor informing motivation. The teacher's expectations also have a marked impact on the motivation a young person has towards their learning. These positive expectations can function as a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy', leading the student to higher outcomes- as delineated by the central study on the topic by Rosenthal in 1968 (Pygmalion in the classroom). If you feel as if your son or daughter is struggling with motivation, organising a meeting between the teacher and the student can help establish rapport and increase expectations.

(b) Academic self-concept and self-efficacy can also have a significant impact on learning. In essence, these ideas relate to a young person's sense that they can complete tasks effectively. It also relates to the student's sense of academic self. High levels of academic self-concept and self-efficacy have proved to have a distinctive influence on promoting a mastery-approach and the use of regulatory strategies. Efficacy and self-concept can be influenced in these ways:

Use moderately-difficult tasks

If the task is too easy it will be boring or embarrassing and may communicate the feeling that the teacher doubts their abilities; a too-difficult task will re-enforce low self-efficacy. The target for difficulty is slightly above the students' current ability level.

Use peer models

Students can learn by watching a peer succeed at a task. Peers may be drawn from groups as defined by gender, ethnicity, social circles, interests, achievement level, clothing, or age.

Teach specific learning strategies

Give students a concrete plan of attack for working on an assignment, rather than simply turning them loose. This may apply to overall study skills, such as preparing for an exam, or to a specific assignment or project.

Capitalize on students' interests

Tie the course material or concepts to student interests such as sports, popular culture, movies or technology.

Allow students to make their own choices

Set up some areas of the course that allow students to make their own decisions, such as with flexible assignment options.

Encourage students to try

Give them consistent, credible and specific encouragement, such as, "You can do this. We've set up an outline for how to write a lab report and a schedule for what to do each week, now follow the plan and you will be successful."

Give frequent, focused feedback

Giving praise and encouragement is very important, however it must be credible. Use praise when earned and avoid hyperbole. When giving feedback on student performance, compare to past performances by the same student, don't make comparisons between students.

Encourage accurate attributions

Help students understand that they don't fail because they're dumb, they fail because they didn't follow instructions, they didn't spend enough time on the task, or they didn't follow through on the learning strategy.

Anxiety and stress can have a severe impact on motivation. Detailed advice for dealing with stress and anxiety can be found within the anxiety, stress and depression page.

Goal setting can also have a significant impact on motivation. The setting goals page details the recommended  method for setting goals.

Cooperative learning has been proved to have a significant impact on motivation. Anecdotally, the school's best two performances in the higher school certificate were driven by cohorts that learned very early that cooperative learning had a direct relationship with their performance. Cooperative learning opportunities should be fostered and valued by parents, teachers and students

The cult of pedagogy website has an especially useful resource on student motivation.