The state oversight of private and parochial education is likely to increase slowly, especially along the lines of uniformity in statistics and records, sanitary inspection, common standards of work, and the enforcement of the attendance laws. In particular, the attitude toward the control of the child is likely to change. Each year the child is coming to belong more and more to the state, and less and less to the parent. - Ellwood P. Cubberley 1909
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The Magic Ingredient Missing in Education - Motivation
If only teaching kids were as simple. The Atlantic wrote about about the missing ingredient in education reform. Emily Richmond covered a new report from the Center on Education Policy that did a metastudy on student motivation. The good news - motivation programs do sometimes work. The bad news - There is no equivalent of Pupperoni for all students. And in many cases, once the motivation is removed, the student stops participating.
The one common thread in the studies is that students need to see a connection between what they are learning and how it is going to help them in the real world. Without that, many students either stop attending school or act out in class due to boredom or frustration.
The human brain is a lot more complex than my dog's brain. Humans will play all sorts of mental games with themselves to keep from being disappointed or feeling guilty. Some students will not try hard because they are convinced they do not have the innate intelligence to master something. Some won't try hard because it gives them an excuse if they fail. The only reason my dog stops trying is because either I have run out of treats, or his brain has registered that his stomach is full. Thus, motivating students is much more complex than applying simple Pavlovian techniques.
Dealing with the immature brain of a child makes finding motivation even more challenging. Adult logic would tell you, take the education while its free because you get an early start on the ladder to success and better chance at college which gives you a better chance at higher earnings over a lifetime. Otherwise, you will end up trying to get a GED, which you have to pay for, while working a low wage job and taking care of yourself and possibly a family. All the while you will be behind those who took advantage of the 12 years free the first time. All of that means little to a kid who can barely think past lunch let alone a decade or more into the future.
Walt Gardner, who writes the Reality Check blog at Ed Week, noted that the right motivation can spur tremendous effort, "Kids will sleep out overnight in the street to get tickets to a rock concert. If you show students a connection and a purpose to what they're doing, the motivation takes care of itself."
It will be difficult for the school system to figure out what motivates each child. Blanket programs that attempt to guess at this have been a hit or miss prospect. This is why parents must stay involved in the education process. And we should be showing kids a connection between what they are being asked to do in school and what the world will ask them to do once they leave school. Otherwise those kids will be sleeping out on the street, but not for any concert tickets.