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Can You Measure Motivation?

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This story, "Researchers Propose NAEP Look Beyond Academic Measures," by Education Week's Kathleen Kennedy Manzo is about a new report written for the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, which says that the National Assessment of Educational Progress should measure more than just basic academic skills. The report claims that the assessment should expand to include eight goals: "basic academic skills, critical thinking, social skills and work ethic, readiness for citizenship, physical and emotional health, appreciation of arts and literature, and preparation for work."

There's an interesting discussion forming in the comments, directly linked to student motivation. One commenter (New Teacher Network) says, "What really matters is the motivation, skills and aptitudes of young people going forward. Those are things that can be cultivated and measured and should be." But another (The Principal) asks, "How in the world do you MEASURE motivation, citizenship, emotional health, social skills, work ethic, and other such subjective measures?"

I tend to agree that these factors should be measured in some way, but I'm not 100% convinced that it's the responsibility of NAEP to do so. But perhaps it is--after all, NAEP has been dubbed "The Nation's Report Card," which implies that it looks at education as a whole. And, of course, student motivation plays a huge part in education.

What do you think? Should the assessments be expanded to include measures for things like student motivation? And if so, how should that be measured?

3 Comments

I think the question is less whether we should try to measure these other things that it is how we should go about measuring them.

Richard Rothstein's latest research provides compelling evidence that, both historically and currently, Americans believe the purpose of schooling to be far above and beyond simply learning basic academic skills -- which is all that the NAEP measures today. Furthermore, he points out that the NAEP was originally intended to measure these things.

No school can be deemed a success based on math or reading scores alone and, as the nation's report card, the NAEP owes the nation a more in-depth picture than it currently provides.

I'm no expert, but I believe that PISA already has in place some measures of student engagement in science (maybe also other areas)--which I think track well with motivation. In fact, there is a wealth of survey information available from PISA which NAEP could mimic at various grade levels. This is very helpful at getting at some of the "whys" behind the scores. It also provides a more in-depth picture of family SES that the free and reduced lunch percentages that serve as a proxy in this country. They are able to include parent employment and level of education as well.

A few years ago, our school district adopted a program by Robert Marzano that identified the most effective teaching strategies. One of those was "Reninforcing Effort and Providing Recognition." Marzano says, "Believing in the power of effort tends to improve achievement, whereas belief in ability, other people, or luck ultimately inhibits achievement... Belief that hard work and determination--effort--will lead to success has the greatest effect on acheivement. Believing in effort can serve as a powerful motivational tool that students can apply to any situation." Marzano offers rubrics and charts for effort and achievement.

I think this provides proof that motivation can be measured, that students can be held accountable for motivation, and that they benefit from knowing they are being held accountable.

Comments are now closed for this post.

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  • Jason Lilly: A few years ago, our school district adopted a program read more
  • Margo/Mom: I'm no expert, but I believe that PISA already has read more
  • Corey Bunje Bower: I think the question is less whether we should try read more

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