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Study Calls for Student Motivation in Improvement Planning

It seems common sense that if student achievement is the measure of school improvement, the students themselves need to be engaged, yet it seems student motivation isn't often directly addressed in programs to improve student scores.

A new Center on Education Policy report argues that educators and policymakers often overlook the importance of student buy-in and motivation when planning school improvement initiatives. While no one system or incentive will encourage all students, CEP researchers argue that educators should consider what we know about student motivation when designing programs for school improvement.

The report from the Washington-based think tank describes four foundations of student motivation:
• Competence, in which students think they have the ability to do what is being asked;
• Control, or students believing they have choice in what to do and can affect the outcome;
• Interest, in which students perceive value in the task or learning; and
• Relatedness, or believing that doing the task or gaining the knowledge will gain them social approval.

For example, efforts to "personalize" the class environment—creating smaller schools or keeping teachers with the same class for several grades, for example—may improve students' social relatedness. Moreover, as previously reported, CEP highlighted that poorly targeted incentives do little good.

"Rewarding specific actions that students can control, such as completing homework, yields better results than rewarding accomplishments that may seem beyond their reach or out of their control, such as whether they earn an A grade," the report says.

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