Can you motivate all your students to self-direct their revision?

As the summer term looms with exam and assessment season this is the moment for us to take a step back and remind ourselves of the metacognitive cycle. Please indulge me on this one! Slogging towards someone else’s goal is never going to be motivating. For some students achieving their best or being given a target grade is not an enticing carrot; it feels like an imposed, overwhelming or unacheivable target.

We need to turn the situation on its head. Start with students setting their personal goal, breaking it down into small steps before seeking expert feedback. All the ingredients of deliberate practice. Firstly, do they have the inner belief that they are capable of setting goals and actually reaching them? The metacognitive cycle does not exist in a vacuum: cognition and motivation also play their part. As the EEF guidance report highlights: “…it is impossible to be metacognitive without having different cognitive strategies to hand and possessing the motivation and perseverance to tackle problems and apply these strategies.” Who wants to burn themselves out by running multiple revision sessions? Or resort to the pep talk: ‘want to improve on your mock results?’ What better way to empower them and prepare them throughout their life by helping students find what drives them to persevere.

Have you ever wondered what REALLY motivates your students? Why do they act certain things or respond in a particular way? Finding out a student’s motivators is fundamental to their happiness and educational success, particularly if we want them to become metacognitive. I think that motivation is the most misunderstood aspect of improving outcomes. To allow a student to fulfil their potential is a fine balancing act between achieving high levels of performance whilst ensuring they are happy and stimulated. Understanding their intrinsic motivation ensures they tailor their learning experience, resulting in greater personal success.

What is motivation?

Motivation drives our behaviour. It is not a conscious decision, but comes from the underlying need for achievement, affiliation or influence. It is linked to our self-concept, personal beliefs, social expectations and personality traits. It is the root of our behaviour, Spencer and Spencer’s metaphor of an iceberg demonstrates this, our motives lie beneath the surface.

What are motivators?

So what motivates us to act? We use motivators to convince students, peers and ourselves to do things all the time – the old carrot and stick approach:

  • “If you complete all the tasks you can get a housepoint.”
  • “If you don’t do your homework, you will get a detention.”
  • “If you pass all your exams, you will get a better job.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that the most basic motivators are the physiological needs: food, water, warmth, rest. As each motivation level is met, a person will be able to move up the ladder. At the bottom, motivation is focused on our body, solely fixed on keeping us alive. Wider research about motivation has produced different structures and categories of motivators. Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors found eight motivators while the Enneagram has nine, organised into the “Head Types”, the “Heart Types”, and the “Body Types”. These models do not have a hierarchy but a series of motivators or drivers.

The Youth Motivational Map™ we offer to schools , developed by James Sale, draws on Maslow, Schein and the Enneagram. Asking simple, yet pertinent questions, our Motivation Maps provide teachers, parents and students with “whole child” insight, revealing a framework for goal-setting and self-reflection, to support exam preparation. There are hundreds of different profiles: a student who might be particularly motivated by relationships thrives on friendships. Loyalty and support systems of friends and teachers makes them feel secure and allows them to flourish with a high level of stability. And then there are the achievement focused who are far more data driven and analytical. They thrive on knowledge and like to be recognised for that quality as they find it highly motivating.

Harnessing motivators for revision

Schools and parents can offer a plethora of opportunities and all the support they need to develop revision skills but unless the student actually has high levels of motivation and commitment within them to succeed, they will not reach that full potential. The equation ‘performance = ability x motivation’, admittedly taken from research on the performance of workers in industry, suggests performance to be a function of ability and motivation. It implies that motivation is of an equal weighting to ability.

This is made up of innate ‘talent’ and environmental influences such as the opportunities and support they have received. A Motivational Map is an excellent metacognitive tool and a great starting point for adults and students alike to understand what makes them tick by identifying key drivers that intrinsically motivate. To succeed in our mission to encourage all students to own their revision, we need insight and information to ensure that what they do is motivating. Plugging away at a task or repetitive situation that sucks your energy is not going to leave you feeling energised or spark your enthusiasm. In the classroom, teachers provide motivation by giving their students choice, building confidence, and relating the subject to areas of interest. Identifying individual motivations with those preparing for their exams could encourage them to see the reward is far greater than the cost or effort.

Motivation does matter!

We are offering four free Youth Motivational Map for students that would benefit from finding out more about their learning motivations and how they can use this to help develop their motivation. The map takes the form of a 10-15 minute online questionnaire, which should be answered on gut instinct. This is entirely student-led and generates three reports which look at the current intrinsic motivation of the child, focusing on relationships, achievement and growth within their personal development. Click here: Contact

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