Student Motivation

February 28, 2010 at 2:42 am 3 comments

Teachers who tell that you kids that today just aren’t motivated truly don’t understand much about motivation.  It might, however be accurate to say that some kids aren’t motivated to do the things they being are asked to do in the classroom.  But to say they have no motivation, just isn’t accurate.  We are all motivated.  In fact, motivation is behind everything we do. It is true we can be motivated by the results or we can be motivated to avoid inevitable results, but we are motivated.

In his book and video, The Motivation Breakthrough, 6 Secrets to Turning on the Tuned out Child. Richard, Lavoie does a great job of uncovering the underlying factors that motivate all of us.  He also provides some great tips for teachers who are interested in avoiding power struggles and instead find ways to help kids choose to do what the teacher needs them to do.  I’m not going to highlight these in this blog post as my intent is not to provide an overview of Lavoie’s work.  Rather, I’d like to shine a light on the issue of the work we ask kids to do.

Assuming that a child is capable of doing the work at hand, and assuming their most basic needs (food, drink, safety) have been met, we are left with the question of why some kids just won’t  ‘play’ the game of school.  I would suggest that at the heart of some of the resistance is the disparity kids experience between the learning environment in schools and the world in which they engage outside of schools.

Outside of schools, kids are connected, get to make choices, and have a wealth of information at their fingertips.  They don’t need to memorize data they can easily access, and collaborating with friends isn’t viewed as cheating.  Furthermore, they engage with technology in authentic ways and generally don’t choose to do ‘meaningless’ activities.  The whole issue of meaningless is at the heart of this post.  I fear for many kids, much of what is done in school is meaningless and disconnected from their worlds.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that everything we do is school is meaningless; Rather, I’m suggesting that we are guilty of providing isolated pieces of knowledge and kids don’t see the relevance.

In his book, Inventing Better Schools-An Action Plan for Education Reform, which has been out since 2001, Phillip Schlechty says it best.  He makes the case that learning is not the ‘business of schools.’  Rather, he argues that the business of schools is designing engaging, meaningful learning opportunities. According to Schlechty, learning is a by-product of kids engaging in the learning opportunities.

So why don’t teachers spend time designing engaging, meaningful learning opportunities.  For starters, most teachers haven’t been trained to do this.  Additionally, for many educators, adequate planning time is sorely lacking.  Couple these factors with the ever increasing demands being placed on them and it should be no surprise that planning for most educators means deciding how many pages in the text book can be covered during the next class period.  Think about that for a minute.  All too often the curriculum has been turned over to textbook publishers.  Ever wonder who writes the material included in the textbooks.  Apparently, nobody.  Check out this article on Edutopia, titled, “A Textbook Example of What’s Wrong with Education.”


Entry filed under: Education, Recommended Reads. Tags: , , , , , .

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