Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Teaching Motivation to the un-motivated

NASDAP Workshop #2, Margaret Ross

I have heard plenty about Margaret Ross but had never had the opportunity of attending one of her workshops - what a treat, she's got plenty great ideas alongside a sharp wit which added the appropriate humour along the way. The key points I got from the workshop were as follows:

Motivation is a journey, not a destination and the great joy of motivation is not the end result, but the hard work that gets us there. As Printrich and Schunk (2002) explain, motivation is "a process rather than a product. As a process we do not observe motivation directly...we infer from...choice of task, effort, persistence and verbalisation" they continue by stating, "motivation influences what, when and how we learn". Many students we may describe in our classes as un-motivated are actually quite motivated, it's just that they are motivated to be doing activities quite different from what we would desire them to be doing!

So, the real question is how do we motivate students to learn what we want them to learn? We of course want students who can display the key competency of Managing Self "this competency is associated with self-motivation, a can do attitude...students who manage themselves...enterprising, resourceful, reliable, resilient, establish personal goals, make plans, manage projects, set high standards. They have strategies for meeting challenges". One key step in enabling students to become better self-managers is realising as teachers we can help students develop skills and strategies to self manage better. A key component of this is helping students build self-efficacy or self-belief. Students are much more likely to be successful if they have a belief they can achieve something, rather than having the ability to do some (but not the accompanying belief). Take the marshmallow experiment for example (video here). Students who were able to resist eating the marshmallow display desirable traits such as managing impulsiveness by being future focused, they can delay pleasure. This belief in one's capability to organise and execute the course of action required to produce given attainments (Alderman, 2004) is known as self-efficacy.

So, if self-efficacy is one of the key components of student motivation how do we help develop this within our students? Margaret Ross suggested students develop self-efficacy four ways:
1. Task accomplishment (I've done this action successfully before) High Success
2. Vicarious experience (I see the successful performance of someone else who could not do it first) High Success
3. I get praise from the teacher (low success)
4. I feel good (low success)
Providing opportunities for students to experience success and build on it is key, alongside opportunities for them to see others do something (it's never easy to be the first person to try something new!) and sometimes this may need to be us as teachers modelling a process - such as the construction of an essay with all the crossing outs and changes along the way, rather than the providing the model essay as an exemplar (and not showing the process to getting it to this point!).

One of the final ways to motivate students comes back to showing what we want and teaching students how to do it - reciprocity - the response from a human to a friendly action is frequently much nicer and more cooperative. In contrast the response to a aggressive action is often hostile and nasty - students will give back 10x what you invest. Teachers give off a vibe and this is picked up by students, positive vibes generate and positive atmosphere. Negative vibes generate feelings within students that the teacher doesn't like them and is counter-productive. We can positively change the way we feel about a class (if needed) by thinking and acting differently and students will pick up on this and feed it back. Looking for ways to develop a sense of the whole group and not isolating parts of class or generating subgroups becomes part of this. It is also where rewards come in, using rewards to celebrate with the group and in doing so generating a feeling of belonging for everyone. Praise can then be used as affirmation for efforts put in by students, efforts to work independently on a calculation, try a new strategy, work with part of a group when usually preferring to work independently and so on. Saying "I was really impressed by the way you kept on task even though you were really frustrated" is powerful feedback and praise for a student that specifically reinforces building their habit of perseverance.

Of course nothing is more important than the relationships we develop with other students - Affirmations, celebrations and relationships!

Response: The majority of the workshop was affirmation of the way I like to work and the way our school's philosophy is built, which is great. My challenge is to look for ways to make students feel part of the group - I know in the past I've baked food, celebrated events etc. but doing more of this to generate a sense of togetherness and belonging would be invaluable.

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