Unfortunately, there is no single magic recipe for motivating all students all of the time.
Very gradually researchers are beginning to recognise the aspects of the teaching/ learning situation that enhance students' self-motivation. Research suggests increased student motivation occurs when teachers provide:
Research has also shown that the level of motivation a student walks into the classroom with can be changed, for the better or worse, depending on what occurs in that classroom. More than anything else, a quality relationship is what enables cooperative behaviours and motivation to be stretched and reshaped. Healthy connections bubble to the surface as a smile, a wink, a silly face, a nudge, a dare, a joke, a thumbs up, a kind or reassuring comment. The benefits arising from a quality relationship are remarkable, and are far more potent than special efforts to attack motivation directly. They provide the scope for everyone to have a go and make mistakes without causing a catastrophe. They allow the word 'sorry' to be exchanged more freely and offer us a little more leverage to influence our students to find that elusive quality, self-motivation.
Whether it is the result of maturational delay, a difficult background, learning difficulty, impulsivity, distractibility or emotion, students troubled by poor persistence and low motivation difficulties really 'do it tough'. They are far more dependent on our clever abilities to find ways to help them move from the same old unproductive ways to new healthier patterns of behaviour. This requires an intelligently composed approach that keeps the focus on 'changing behaviour', rather than seeing the student as 'the problem child'. Both anecdotal and research based evidence show that accepting, optimistic teacher attitudes sustain students who do not yet have a well developed set of internal resources to fall back on.
Here is a selection of twenty very practical ideas to assist students who experience difficulties with motivation and persistence, but without the existence of healthy relationships each of the 'SPARKLING IDEAS' that follow will become little more than a prop that might result in some temporary control.
Never underestimate the impact of writing friendly, uplifting letters to students. This is another way to bolster their persistence and enrich relationships. It is an easy way to remind them of their goals, their progress and the few remaining steps to achieve the next goal. Letters also deliver a message, without the student having to listen! As we all know, difficult to motivate students hear well-intentioned criticism and advice all too often. They have become 'teacher-deaf'.
Regularly ask them, "How is it best I help you?" "What do you need me to do to improve your chances of success."
Outstanding individuals believed to have Dyslexia -
One of my young teenagers with Cerebral Palsy attended a seminar presented by Catriona Webb, an Australian athlete with the same condition. When I saw her again I asked her how she found the evening. Her reply was, 'It made me feel so good about me. I understand it now. I know the power of learning to love my disability. She made me understand that it's no good struggling against it. I may as well use it. It was the first time for ages I've gone to bed feeling happy about me.'
Through listening to significant others students can identify pivotal points that shaped potential difficulties into success. They learn first-hand what made the difference, and how this thinking and attitude can work for them.
This is a good time to introduce the idea of, 'how to play the game'. That is, how one needs to look and what they need to say and do to get along with others in particular situations. Playing the game is such a valuable social skill, and being able to flexibly 'adapt to the game' is often the difference between social success and failure.
Similarly, it may be the perfect moment to explore attitude. After all, who is in charge of our attitude? Examine and discuss this quotation:
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.
The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we do is play on the one string we have, that is attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our attitudes.
The vision a student holds can be turned into reality through collaboratively designing small step-by step-solutions. Achieving small goals, accomplished lesson-by-lesson, day-by-day or week-by- week provides evidence of change. A good beginning may be as simple as asking the student, "What do you want?" Sometimes they may not know what they want, yet this simple question can dissolve barriers. If they do know, get them to record their goal or goals so they have a physical record to refer to later.
Discuss the step-by-step process necessary to get your student from where they are, right now, to where they want to end up. Collect pictures that stimulate an appreciation of that career. Arrange for people in the selected careers to visit, to discuss the career and the journey they took to achieve their goal. Sometimes arranging for a young speaker new to their career helps students to feel their vision is worth holding. Visit a location involved in this kind of work - it enthuses!
Link now to the future by mapping out a year-by-year, term-by-term plan. Make a map with labels, dates and ways to achieve the ultimate goal. Display it, and use it like a road map! Refer to it often.
Rewards need to be mutually negotiated so that the chance of success is highly likely. And, if success isn't achieved at first, plan to restart without loss of dignity. Finally, when they experience success, students have that wonderful 'feeling of success' imprinted onto their memory, aiding motivation and persistence in the future.
A few students, however, require more powerful concrete reinforcers (level two type rewards) as praise alone is just not enough. Concrete reinforcers do not have to be expensive. Consider bonus time on the computer, collectible items, music CDs, gift vouchers and money. Artful teachers and parents use influential concrete reinforcers to motivate students to begin or finish work, or to comply. In a token system, stars or points are awarded when targetted positive behaviours are achieved, and can later be exchanged for a reward. This form of encouragement, well managed over time, usually leads to internal motivation, which, of course, is the ultimate goal.
Instead of seeing the year in its entirety, break it up into manageable pieces. Together, decide what is manageable: a day, a week, half a term or a term? Guide them so their thinking is logical. In other words, if they are able to put one assignment together, maintain compliant behaviour or complete homework tasks during one week then they can be successful in doing the same next week. Build an understanding that small units of success add up to a successful term or year. Decide on a celebration to mark the end of each term or each milestone. These occasions also present opportunities to review progress.
On a simpler level, make it a daily habit to talk to those one or two students about their special interest!
Teachers are in a wonderful position to survey students about the activities they are involved in outside school and distribute contacts so others may become involved. We should acknowledge this and actively promote these links. Children and teens often find friendship and meaningful connections in organisations such as:
|Cubs||Various Sporting Groups|
|Joeys||Environmental Rescue Clubs|
|Scouts||Model Railway Clubs|
|Computer groups||Genealogy Associations|
|Collecting groups||Gardening Clubs|
|CSIRO Double Helix Science Clubs||Astronomical Societies|
|Chess clubs||Car Clubs|
|Knitting Club||Swimming Clubs|
|Radio Controlled Car Clubs||Fishing Clubs|
|Ten Pin Bowling Clubs||Rabbit Clubs|
|Lawn Bowling Clubs||Role-play Groups|
|Rock and Mineral Clubs||Ballet Groups|
|Backgammon Clubs||Guinea Pig Clubs|
|Callisthenic Clubs||Tap Dance Groups|
|Drama Classes||Budgerigar and pigeon Clubs|
|Athletic Clubs||Jazz Dance Clubs|
|Science Fiction Clubs||Choir Groups|
|Dart Clubs||Cat Clubs|
|Historical Re-enactment Clubs||BMX Club|
|Flying and Gliding Clubs||Bushwalking Clubs|
|Model Aeroplane Clubs||Church Groups|
|Rowing Clubs||Warhammer Groups|
|Scuba Diving Clubs||Tai chi Clubs|
|Brass Band Groups||Dolls and Collectable Antique Clubs|
|Youth Group||Karate Clubs|
|Patonque Clubs||Volunteer groups for zoos, museums &|
|Rock-climbing Groups||environmental groups|
There are a myriad of groups within the local community worth exploring. The best situations are usually semi-organised by adults. They foster friendship, develop interests and provide opportunities for children and adolescents to exercise their 'emotional muscle'. To give some idea of the vital role clubs and associations can play; a study by Hedley & Young (2003) found the occurrence of depressive symptoms in young teenagers with Asperger Syndrome running at an overwhelming 25 per cent. Their recommendation to improve general wellbeing was to encourage young individuals to participate in activities and groups that encourage purpose and acceptance.
A good mentor can also offer learning support; how-to plan and structure assignments, maths coaching, reading and spelling interventions and can suggest routines to help with improving organisation. By depending on their mentor, students can build structures to improve routines, develop strategies to build friendships and find avenues to improve academic skills. As a consequence, their world becomes more predictable, allowing them to behave more steadily. Increasingly, mentoring is being acknowledged as a robust means to provide students with greater impetus to find success.
This approach may be useful for a student you have in mind. Target one behaviour you'd like to see less of, or a behaviour you'd like to see a lot more of. Ask the student to record the behaviour (with support) you have jointly agreed to track each time each occurs. Set up in the right way, so that student's integrity remains in tact, it can become a comparative vehicle to deliver behavioural changes and improvements. A little later you might consider attaching incentives - sometimes a sweetener can really assist!
For specific details and worksheets about this quick and highly effective approach get hold of Mark Le Messurier's book, Cognitive Behavioural Training: A How-to Guide for Successful Behaviour (2004). Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.
Occasionally, seize the moment when students reach an impasse. Guide them to reach into their developing 'tool box' of perseverance strategies, and find a way to deal with the problem at hand.
Encourage students to write scripts, create plays or make a video. Use the theme 'Perseverance'.
A good place to start is to type in 'classroom energizers' into a Google search and be amazed by the array of ideas offered. Here are several favourites of mine.
So, trust your instincts. Participate in redesigning opportunities for that poorly self-motivated, vulnerable or 'at risk' student right now.
Start with a small step that targets just one positive change.
Then, behold the amazing ripple effect!
|phone:||(08) 8332 0698|
|fax:||(08) 8373 7018|