December 2007 Archives

As 2008 approaches, please give us some suggestions for motivation-related issues you would like to see covered in this blog in the new year. We have made a commitment to providing more information, more regularly on this blog. And we would like your help in maintaining that momentum. Your insights and suggestions will be an invaluable source of material for us. Tell us what you think by putting your suggestions in the comments section of this entry or email them to me at [email protected] Thanks for your help. And have a Happy New Year!...


There's an AP story posted today that pretty much sums up my frustrations as a high school student in a high-performing, affluent school district. Here's the basic gist of it: "In most of the [Washington, D.C. area], a score of 90 or higher will earn a student the top mark. But in Fairfax County, (Va.) it takes a score of at least 94." It's this kind of discrepancy that really irrated me when I was a student. Although I did not attend school in Fairfax County, my school district used the same grading scale as the one described in ...


I was searching YouTube today for motivation-related material and I found this college commencement speech by Steve Jobs of Apple Computer. Sure, it's a little dated (2005), but it's an excellent speech about bouncing back from setbacks, the power of curiosity and creativity, and the importance of following a dream. It might offer some food for thought as the second half of the 2007-08 school year approaches. Check it out....


Happy Holidays to all Motivation Matters readers! Now that you have completely exhausted yourself getting packages out to all your family and friends, we hope the holiday break re-energizes you to seek out new and better ways to motivate students and educators to improve schools. We would like to leave you with a video we found on YouTube showcasing an elementary student's classroom presentation of a pop-up Christmas card. This boy was obviously motivated to do this school assignment. Check out the video here:...


I read an article this morning called "Collaboration--Rather than Competition--For Quality Learning" by Marvin Marshall, author of the book Discipline Without Stress, Punishments, or Rewards. As the title suggests, the article makes the argument that learning is enhanced by a collaborative setting, rather than the traditionally competitive one that is used in most classrooms. Marshall says that competition creates more losers than winners, and as a result, actually reduces student motivation. I agree with some of the things Marshall says in this article--I shy away from competition at all costs--but to me, there's a difference between competition in which you ...


I know we've talked about how rewards affect student motivation many times before, but this article in the American Educator approaches the question "should learning be its own reward?" from the perspective of cognitive science. It is probably the most comprehensive article about using rewards to motivate students I've read so far, so if this is something you're interested in, I highly recommend that you check it out. Here's an excerpt: Concrete rewards can motivate students to attend class, to behave well, or to produce better work. But if you are not careful in choosing what you reward, they can ...


An AP story about a recent study by the Baltimore-based nonprofit organization Advocates for Children and Youth links low performing schools with high principal turnover rates. The group, which examined schools in or near Baltimore, calls for incentives to keep principals in low achieving schools for longer periods of time with the hope that more experienced principals will improve academic performance, says the article. There's a related article up today in the Rocky Mountain News about one principal who left her post at a high achieving middle school to work at the lowest-performing middle school in the state. Her leadership ...


I woke up Sunday morning looking forward to a getting a jump on packing some Christmas gifts and watching my highly motivated New England Patriots continue their march toward an undefeated season. But then my middle school son nearly made me choke on my coffee when he showed me the progress he had made toward completing his science project about animal and plant cells, an assignment he had mentioned in passing the day before. What little progress he had made! And how worried I looked! Reading over the assignment, I realized he had a 10-15 hour work session ahead of ...


An interesting conversation is evolving around Katie's Dec. 11 post about the value of homework. The parents who commented seem to think there is too much of it and most of it is just busy work that won't necessarily help students become better learners. I must say I stand smack in the middle of this debate. As the father of four children--ages 4, 10, 13, and 15--there are some nights, especially when I am maxed out doing a million tasks, that a child's plea for help on homework irritates me. Why does the school assign so much homework? Why can't ...


A new position paper put out by the Association for Childhood Education International outlines the teacher's role in student motivation and how that can be used to bolster achievement. The paper draws two major conclusions about student motivation. The first is that "children's learning is supported by task-related incentives, both intrinsic and extrinsic, that are responsive to the individual child, the domain of study, and the sociocultural context." The second is that "effective teaching transcends merely imparting knowledge and relies, to a considerable extent, on educators' ability to motivate students to learn. Any characterization of learning that disregards the role ...


Having been out of school for about a year and a half now, I have to admit that one of the things I enjoy most about the working world is that when I go home, I don't have any homework. When I turn off my computer and put on my coat, that is officially the end of my working day, and I'm not required to think about it anymore. It is a luxury I always envied when I was a student. But then again, as I've mentioned many times before, I did a lot of homework when I was in ...


We want to draw your attention to a new campaign in Washington state called Creativity Matters. The goal of the campaign is to reinforce the argument that teaching kids how to be creative (as well as analytical) is important for the economic future of the United States, and that creativity can be taught across all academic subjects, not just in the arts. It's worth noting that the campaign is supported by some big names in the corporate world, such as Microsoft and Boeing. The campaign is considering some interesting proposals, such as training for principals on how to run schools ...


There's nothing like a story about a Mexican immigrant who has written two books, appeared on television, and given a series of motivational speeches all before she could legally drive to make you feel lazy. Yuliana Gallegos, 16, has written a book called Mi sueno de America/My American Dream about her experiences as an English-language learner after her family moved to Houston when she was in the fourth grade. Determined to keep up with her peers, she spent hours each night doing her homework with the help of stacks of dictionaries and quizzed herself on new vocab every day, ...


Telling high-achieving kids that they are smart and talented may seem like a good idea, but according to this article from Scientific American magazine, attributing good grades to natural ability and talent can actually squelch students' motivation when they run into harder problems. We have written in this blog about this idea before, when researcher Carol S. Dweck put out her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck groups kids into two categories: those with a fixed mindset who believe that achievement is directly related to natural talent, and those with a growth mindset who think success is a ...


Yesterday, I read an essay published in the Hoover Digest, written by Diane Ravitch. In the essay, Ravitch, whose well-defined ideas on education you can find on her Bridging Differences blog, says that we are quick to blame teachers for low international test scores and poorly performing schools, but we rarely point to the students and their "slacker" attitude towards school when thinking about reform. It's really an excellent essay, and I highly recommend that you read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt just for reference's sake: Next time there is a conference about the state of American education--or ...


I'm not one to hold grudges, but my college application process was one of the most stressful and disappointing experiences in my recent memory. Despite four years of extracurricular activities, volunteer work, college-level classes, and loads of homework, I was still rejected from my first-choice school. Afterwards, I felt that if I had chosen to take a less-rigorous curriculum during high school, I would have had higher grades, and consequently, a higher class rank, which may have resulted in an acceptance letter. Of course, that's all speculative, and some would just call me bitter, but I don't think I'm alone ...


I hope my 4-year-old daughter has the science genes and motivation to follow in the footsteps of this group of girls, who recently swept the prestigious Siemens high school science competition. This is the first time ever that girls have won all the grand prizes in the competition, according to this Associated Press story. This is great news for girls and maybe the stereotype that girls are not good at math and science is beginning to disappear. But the underside of these results is the question: What is the matter with the boys? Are they on the decline? As the ...


I can only imagine the whining that ensued when students in 10 Massachusetts schools were told that their school day would stretch from a 6-hour schedule to an 8- or 9-hour day. But the results are in, and according to this article in the Boston Globe, it's working. The students in schools with longer days scored higher on the MCAS--Massachusett's state-wide standardized test--in math, English, and science across all grade levels than students in schools with a normal schedule, according to a report released on Friday. It makes sense to me that being in school for a longer amount of ...


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