Reflecting on 5 questions to ask yourself about unmotivated students

Author: Dawn Mitchell

Hello everyone!


One of the reasons we value the work of Cult of Pedagogy’s Jennifer Gonzalez is how she provides research based support to relevant, real world struggles we face in our profession every day that is practical in application and engaging and inspiring enough to encourage you to consider a new way of looking at the issue or even a new approach to implement.


One of our best examples of this is her blog post, 5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students.  We all experience apathy in education but instead of viewing it as an expected outcome of compulsory, public education, Jenn challenges us to consider our approach to the issue.


In addressing the issue, Jenn first provides a summary of the most recent research on the topic of motivation.  Below are her top four summary points.


  1. Students are more motivated academically when they have a positive relationship with their teacher.

  2. Choice is a powerful motivator in most educational contexts.

  3. For complex tasks that require creativity and persistence, extrinsic rewards and consequences actually hamper motivation.

  4. To stay motivated to persist at any task, students must believe they can improve in that task.

Next, without stepping on our toes, Jenn asks us to consider our own role in student motivation.  She writes, “So let’s look at our own practice. When we set aside all the outside factors and just focus in on our time with students, how are we doing? How much alignment is there between our own instructional moves and the research on student motivation?  I have put together a list of five questions we can ask ourselves to see if we really are doing everything we could to boost student motivation. To keep me from getting too preachy, I’ll do the exercise with you, reflecting on the years when I was a classroom teacher with middle school students. Okay, let’s go.”  Below are the questions she recommends we as educators ask ourselves.


1. HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STUDENTS, REALLY?

2. HOW MUCH CHOICE DO YOUR STUDENTS ACTUALLY HAVE?

3. ARE YOU RELYING HEAVILY ON CARROTS AND STICKS…OR JOLLY RANCHERS?

4. DO YOUR WORDS CONTRIBUTE TO A GROWTH MINDSET OR A FIXED MINDSET?

5. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MAKE YOUR CONTENT RELEVANT TO STUDENTS’ LIVES?


After each question, Jenn provides us with her own transparent response, followed by how we can do better, providing tips and strategies that we can immediately consider and apply to make a difference in our own classrooms.


Traci Hogan, our SCASCD secretary and Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Services in Greenville County said, “I really liked this blog because it speaks to the core of so many challenges.  It provides much needed self reflection by all who work in education, not just those who work directly with students, and very realistic actions steps for improvement.  The blog assists in taking us from admiring a problem to intentional, doable action plans that yield positive outcomes far beyond academic achievement.”


If you would like to hear Jennifer in person,  join us at our South Carolina ASCD Spring Conference on Thursday, March 5, to hear Jennifer Gonzalez in person! Come network with fellow educators who learn, teach, and lead together in supporting the Whole Child.  Visit www.scascd.org for conference registration.


Sincerely,

Dawn


Dawn Mitchell

South Carolina ASCD President

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