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Motivation Issues for 2008? Tell Us What You Think

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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!

9 Comments

I firmly believe the best motivator is providing mentor relationships to students. Too many students go through school not really understanding that people care. When a student knows that someone really cares about their success and when the mentor remains consistent about checking in and encouraging them, students will be motivated. This mentor could be anyone from the wrestling coach to the drama teacher. The imperative factor is the character of the mentor and whether their concern is genuine, not assigned. I would like to learn more about mentor programs that have been successful in schools around the nation, both elementary and secondary.

Motivation is a difficult thing to identfiy. It is different for each one of us. In my mind the key to motivation is grounded in the goal setting process. Without a goal there is no commitment or motivation. Commit to what? In our work on personal responsibility and goal setting the key element is the ability to set and then achieve a goal. We have developed a method of assessing the core competencies for goal setting and achievement. Scales in the assessment included: goal setting, self efficacy, values congruence, achievement drive, supportive environment, self-esteem, self-control, self-management, self improvement, personal responsibility, problem solving and resiliency. All of these directly relate to the goal setting and achievement process. They are essential in one's ability to motivate oneself.

Motivation is a difficult thing to identfiy. It is different for each one of us. In my mind the key to motivation is grounded in the goal setting process. Without a goal there is no commitment or motivation. Commit to what? In our work on personal responsibility and goal setting the key element is the ability to set and then achieve a goal. We have developed a method of assessing the core competencies for goal setting and achievement. Scales in the assessment included: goal setting, self efficacy, values congruence, achievement drive, supportive environment, self-esteem, self-control, self-management, self improvement, personal responsibility, problem solving and resiliency. All of these directly relate to the goal setting and achievement process. They are essential in one's ability to motivate oneself.

What is the best way to motivate special education students? Students with memory problems, fetal alcohol syndrome and learning disabilities who have learned to let others do the work for them, or simply can't remember what to do are difficult to motivate.

Please consider highlighting some of the innovative motivational methods that are being used with great success with highly unmotivated children and youth. Check out these surprsingly unique motivation-makers that can transform apathetic students. We use posters, handouts, lessons, and more to convince students of the value of school. We "market" the value of school much in the way that corporations convince students to care about products. Years ago, families routinely motivated students. Now, for many students who lack that critical family input, teachers have to provide that training. There are hundreds of unique, highly effective motivational methods on our web site for you to sample. Our posters are the fastest way to get a feel for how powerful these tools are. You can use the ideas pictured on the posters, no need to buy the posters. Our motivation posters are here-- click.

Additional examples of our truly unique strategies for motivation are here-- click.
It would be wonderful to see practical, real-world, methods like these offered to your readers.

Student voice and student leadership. Empower students to take ownership of their own learning and school experiences. Give them the space to speak up and be heard. Let their thoughts wander until the creativity and self-reflection motivates them to take the next step. Allow them to be leaders in the school and in their communities.

If you want to motivate the students then hold them accountable.

Our university system is world class because built into the system are accountability and consequences. If you don’t show up for class, then you flunk and/or are dropped from the class, and you lose the money you paid for that class. If you don’t complete the assignments for the class, then you flunk and if you flunk too many classes then you are expelled from the university. If you yell and scream in class, disrupt the other students, cuss out the professor, etc., then you will be expelled from the class and possibly the university. If you are at an introductory level, then you are not placed in a class with students who are close to mastery of the subject.

The K-12 educational system is the exact opposite of our university system. Students are allowed to go from kindergarten to the ninth grade without doing any work. The students can flunk every class, fail all the tests, and they are still promoted. The students can also disrupt the class, cuss out the teachers, prevent other students from learning, get into fights, yet they are still allowed in the classroom. In fact, we blame the teachers for not properly “engaging” the students and/or controlling their classroom.

Would anyone blame the college professors for the lack of effort and/or lack of progress of their students? Would our universities be world class if we blamed the professors for the lack of effort and bad behavior of their students? If not, then why do we blame the K-12 teachers if a student refuses to do his or her homework, won’t participate in class, is very disruptive, is a member of a gang, and/or his family does not care about education? Why does NCLB (No Child Left Behind) hold the teachers accountable for the lack of effort, discipline, and desire of the students and parents?

Why are our K-12 schools the antithesis of everything we are preparing the students for in life? For example, if you won’t and/or can’t do the work at your job, then you will be fired. If you cuss out your boss and disrupt your co-workers, then you will be fired. If you don’t pay your energy bill, then your energy is cut-off. If you don’t do your work in college, then you will flunk out. If you don’t show up for practice and/or you cuss out the coach, then you are cut from the team. Why aren’t we helping students learn these lessons? Why do we do we refuse to hold the K-12 students accountable for their lack of effort and lack of self-control? Instead we make excuses for the students and their parents.

We have been trying the backwards approach of blaming the teachers and the schools for too long and with little if any results. We will never have the results we want until we hold the students and their parents accountable. Students and parents need a stake in the educational process.

Accountability and consequences are great motivators! Just ask anyone why they slow down and drive better when they see a cop. Do you think anyone would slow down if we gave free gas and other goodies to drivers who broke the speed limit?

No amount of money, statistics, community involvement, caring teachers, engaging lessons, outside motivators, etc., will improve education and our schools until the students and parents are held accountable.

Interesting to see which particular carrots and sticks your readers see as effective motivation. For an individual who's been consistently successful in academia (say, someone selected for an IB program in HS, or someone now teaching at the college level), more individual attention or tough consequences may do the trick. As any middle school teacher knows, however, many adolescents have moved past their desire to get good grades, or stay out of the suspension room. Forcing students to be "accountable" with ever-increasing levels of threat and punishment work only for those who were pretty much accountable to begin with--and a constant string of extrinsic rewards loses its motivational power over time, eventually becoming counter-productive as the rewardee gets bored or seeks to up the ante.

Your readers who suggest empowering students and giving them a real voice in decisions about their learning are on the right track. While it's true that relevant content and autonomy are important, the key motivator for most students is a little genuine success.

Remember Pac-Man? The little gobbling heads were not relevant at all, and there was zero discretionary power for the player. So why did we pump quarters into the machine? Because we got a little further every time.

A child who masters a skill or figures out how to solve a problem is motivated to try again, to go a little further. A child who repeatedly fails, and is certain that his next attempt will also result in failure, will not be motivated in the least by threats or empty rewards.

I disagree with Nancy. Accountability and consequences are great motivators! Just ask anyone why they slow down and drive better when they see a cop. Do you think anyone would slow down if we gave free gas and other goodies to drivers who broke the speed limit?

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Recent Comments

  • Former Teacher: I disagree with Nancy. Accountability and consequences are great motivators! read more
  • Nancy Flanagan: Interesting to see which particular carrots and sticks your readers read more
  • Former Teacher: If you want to motivate the students then hold them read more
  • anonymous: Student voice and student leadership. Empower students to take ownership read more
  • Ruth Wells: Please consider highlighting some of the innovative motivational methods that read more

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