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Wells International School Yangon Campus

By Katina Grigoraskos, Wells International School katina.g@wells-school.com

Wells Overview A branch of EverClever Education Group, Ltd., Wells offers an American and IB university-preparatory curriculum to children from kindergarten to high school. Comprising three campuses in central Bangkok ranging from nursery to Grade 12, it has expanded rapidly since its founding in 1999 and now serves approximately 1,000 students who represent over two dozen nationalities. Wells is licensed by the Thai Ministry of Education, has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) since 2009, and is a member of the International Schools Association of Thailand (ISAT) and the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS).

Campus Opening: Wells International School, Yangon Wells International School is proud to announce the opening of its fourth campus in Yangon, Myanmar, scheduled to open in August 2020. Wells Yangon will embrace the strongly established philosophy and American school culture of the three Wells campuses in Bangkok, but it will also be integrating the local Myanmar culture through Myanmar culture and language classes. The teachers of Wells Yangon campus are all native English speakers and well-qualified educators, coming from various international backgrounds.

In the first phase, the school will range from nursery until Grade 5, with plans for expansion with a middle and high school in the future. The first year, Wells Yangon will focus on its nursery, K1 & K2 classes, with applications for enrollment already being accepted. Similar to its sister schools, it will also aim to be a WASC-accredited and International Baccalaureate (IB) affiliated educational institution. cilities will support our emphasis on learning both in the classroom and outside, offering sports programs, performing arts and co-curricular activities. The physical spaces reflect the school philosophy, mission and vision.

Wells Philosophy At Wells, our aim is to change the world one student at a time. International schools are the optimal place for children to get a well-rounded education that will prepare them for success out in the world. As modernization brings new, multicultural complexity into life and business, international education becomes more crucial than ever.

For a consistent and seamless educational experience, it is important to begin this international education from an early age. Throughout the entire curriculum – from kindergarten to high school – Wells prepares students for the challenges they will face at university and beyond, while helping them to adapt to an ever-changing world. We are proud to have alumni accepted into the world’s leading universities. Wells students have gone on to study at universities such as Caltech, which has been ranked as the best university in the world.

Through the IB program, Wells encourages all our students to be principled thinkers. This means learning to be well-balanced, caring, openminded and, of course, knowledgeable. These are attributes we believe all children need in order to successfully progress through life and reach their highest potential. Together, these attributes create internationally minded students who are prepared and ready to face the world. Although we are an American international school, with over 50 nationalities represented across our campuses, we are proud of how diversity contributes to our success in international education.

For more information about our Wells Yangon Campus, please visit our website at https://www.wis.ac/

Ownership, Motivation, and Class Engagement: How does an environment that supports the satisfaction of the three psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness impact student motivation and class engagement?

By Jared Pangier, Hokkaido International School Sapporo jpangier@his.ac.jp

Nurturing our students to be intrinsically motivated to better themselves throughout life is a goal I imagine most teachers in this day and age aspire toward achieving. In fact, as teachers, we are tasked to prepare students for college and career, or, in other words, to ready students to move into the world on their own with less support. Yet, maturity is a long road, and motivation is hard to pin down, with so many factors impacting why each person acts in various situations. Much research has been done on autonomy, purpose, sense of control, and responsibility as essential aspects of motivation, including Ryan & Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (2018), Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (2008), Simon Sinek’s Start with Why (2011), and Stephen Covey’s “Maturity Continuum” (2004). Furthermore, research on the impact of motivation has been conducted within academic environments. A study at a medical school in the Netherlands took the six degrees of motivation (see figure 1) to calculate a student’s Relative Autonomous Motivation (RAM) measuring relationship to student academic performance (Kusurkar, 2013). More specific to the field of literacy, the importance of creating a classroom environment that makes space for pleasure reading and access to that pleasure reading seems crucial to develop lifelong readers (Krashen, 2018; Willingham, 2015). Figure 1: Self-Determination Continuum Showing Types of Motivation; modified from Reeve, 2018 Considering the research done in the field of motivation and literacy, as well as our responsibility as teachers to prepare students to become more independent lifelong learners, in the school year 2019-2020 I conducted a yearlong action research exploratory study examining the relationship between motivation, engagement, and academic success within a literacy-heavy and student-centered classroom environment. The catalyst for my study was a desire to more effectively increase student ownership over learning while also finding the best way to create structure in a classroom model that provides a high degree of choice. Through my study, I hoped to glean insight into the following questions: What is motivation? How can I motivate others? What can I do to make a classroom environment where students take control of their learning, where they care as much about bettering themselves through education as I do?

Study Design With those questions in mind, and based on my understanding of best motivational and literacy practices from my extensive literature review, this study examined the way one teacher instituted these ideas through two intentional language and literacy models and two unexpected models (due to COVID-19), with an additional comparison to a high-achieving AP Seminar classroom, where students were given an even higher degree of autonomy in planning the structure of their course. Through these models, I explored the efficacy of satisfying the three fundamental psychological needs to grow motivation and classroom engagement, following the flow found in the figure below:

Figure 2: Engagement Model to Illustrated the Motivational Significance of

Autonomy Support, Structure, and Involvement; modified from Reeve, 2018 The study examined student perception of control, used to determine the students’ Relative Autonomous Motivation (RAM; see figure 1 above), along with their reported degree of competence and relatedness. Drawing from Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (2018), which described the three psychological needs in motivation (autonomy, competence, and relatedness), my study compared student survey responses to two classroom Language and Literacy classroom models; 1) Model A: Autonomy Focused; 2) Model B: The Balanced Model (Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness), as well as an AP Capstone Seminar model where students were given a high degree of control over the design of the course. Naturally, the pandemic that swept through our

world in the second semester of the school year impacted my study, with much of semester 2 instruction conducted either online or in a mixed format of online learners and masked, socially distanced students. Despite that, I was able to gather insightful information, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in response to my research question: How does an environment that supports the satisfaction of the three psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness impact student motivation and class engagement?

The Language and Literacy Classroom Looking at the Language and Literacy study group of 40 students we can see the following summarized quantitative results:

Perceived Control over Learning Self-Direction High Value General Reading Motivation (Positive RAM) Book Selection Motivation (Positive RAM) SSR Focus Motivation (Positive RAM) Met reading target 2018-2019 Predicted to meet reading target 2019-2020 Confident Speaker Competent Speaker % of language and literacy study participants who met the speaking target Argument writing competence % of language and literacy study participants who met the writing target Classroom Relationships Helpful 77.5% 72.5% 42.5%



~57.5% 62.5% 62.5% 72.5 92.5%

72.5% 77.5%


Table 1: Sense of Control, Motivation, Engagement, and Academic Achievement Comparison

These results show a study group with a majority demonstrating a positive sense of control, self-direction, confidence, competence, relatedness, and academic achievement in both speaking and writing. Yet, the RAM scores did not all result in a majority of study participants demonstrating positive relative autonomous motivation.

Looking specifically at a perceived sense of control reveals a study group that is positively in control as a majority:: While the results above are positive in terms of a sense of control, quantitatively, no broader correlation can be seen between a sense of control, motivation (RAM, competence, relatedness), or classroom performance. Looking at groups clustered together by degrees of sense of control did not reveal any correlation either. Yet, the qualitative voices of the students did indicate a degree of motivation toward taking ownership over learning. In the full 183-page study, diverse views are provided with a small sample here where students provided an example of a perceived sense of control:

1. I used to never have control when I read in class. But now I know lots of good books that I can’t stop reading. The quietness in the class and a lot of other students having control, gain my control when I read. 2. I was able to balance out the workload throughout the semester. That didn’t mean I did work consistently, but I did most of the work when I didn’t have other responsibilities. 3. When writing or brainstorming, I feel like I have the most control of my learning because I get “in the zone” in a sense. I can really concentrate and pump out content for writing assignments. 4. I have control whenever I write a script. I use my control to learn the structure and the best way to grab people’s attention. 5. The assignments we receive are very flexible in time, as in we can pick and decide which assignments we would like to do first on our own. Plus, instead of having everything as flexible, by adding certain assignments with a strict schedule like OUR SCHOOL Reads helps out on not stressing over too much on creating your own schedule. So it works like a base of the assignments.

These voices show the value of making time for reading within the class, as well as the importance of establishing an environment where students have control over their learning (autonomy), guidance (structure to assist with competence), and the ability to turn to each other for help and perspective (relatedness).

In comparing the two language and literacy classroom models, the final results indicated a preference for the balanced Model B. However, the results may be conflated due to the changed delivery of instruction resulting from our school’s response to COVID-19.

Autonomy-focused vs. Autonomy Lite

Comparing Semester 1 and 2, which model helped you grow your language and literacy skills more? 40 responses

On average, to what degree do you feel in control of your learning in this class? 400 responses

Figure 2: Model A or Model B?

Moving beyond a required classroom to one where students opt-in and sign a contract of commitment, requiring completion of a summer assignment, we can briefly examine the AP Seminar study group to see how a sense of control and motivation may have impacted engagement and performance.

The AP Capstone Seminar Classroom Looking at the AP Seminar study group of nine students showed an even more in-control and engaged group of students.

On average, to what degree do you feel in control of your learning class? 9 responses

These results show nine students who feel positively in control of their learning. Unlike the language and literacy study group, these students did not engage in multiple classroom models but just one, which was based on a contract of commitment and the students’ own choice to opt into this AP class. In addition to having a high sense of control, the study showed very high performance by all nine of these students. Yet, the measures for motivation, once again, did not reveal any correlation between sense of control and motivation itself. Still, much was gained from the voices of the students in response to the study survey questions. Here is one student perspective that shows a student who grew, throughout the course, into a self-directed learner who could also perform well:

Student Voice: A lot of my improvement of certain skills in this class came in times where I directed myself. In these times, I would force myself to sit and get the work done. If I didn’t do this, I would not have learned much to help me improve. An example would be the IWA essay. Despite getting a poor grade on my first practice submission, it was that second attempt where I forced myself to reevaluate and write the best essay I could, even though I felt hopeless for a while. The support which has helped me gain this sort of control was (1) the briefing my teacher gave me after my first submission and (2) the material itself which challenged and bred my improvement. A big part of the sense of control comes from the teacher’s well-distanced stance away from the students. The teacher does not tell us how to reach our end-goal, instead, he guides us carefully as to not take the control away from us.

Final Insights All in all, this study showed the value of creating an environment that provides opportunities for students to satisfy their psychological needs in motivation. Although no quantitative correlation was shown, the students’ written responses indicated evident growth in ownership. Through the various classroom models, students began to take control of their learning, moving from dependent teacher-controlled students to students who can and want to learn independently and interdependently, progressing along Covey’s Maturity Continuum (figure 4). Figure 4: Covey’s “The Maturity Continuum”; modified from Covey, 2004

Creating and adjusting our classroom environments to honor students’ agency is just as important as it was last school year, and this need will never go away. Each individual is different. Yet, our psychological needs in motivation remain the same.

At the end of the day, we all seek greater autonomy, competency, and relatedness. Knowing that, as teachers, it is important to implement an attitude of the Japanese idea kaizen, striving to continuously improve a classroom and school environment that values the individual needs, inspiring more students to become driven, lifelong learners. As Simon Sinek says, “If we get the environment right...the result will be an entire group of self-motivated people” (2017). Isn’t that something we all want? Imagine how that could change our future world?

Want Access to the Full Study? If you would like a copy of this study in full, please simply send me an email. jpangier@his.ac.jp

References Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.

Frankl, V. E. (2008). Man’s Search For Meaning. London, Great Britain: Rider.

Krashen, S. (2018). The Conduit Hypothesis: How Reading Leads to Academic Competence. Language Magazine, 0–6.

Retrieved from http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/2018_the_conduit_hypothesis.pdf Kusurkar, R. A., Ten Cate, Th. J., Vos, C. M. P., P. Westers, & Croiset, G. (2013, March 1).

How Motivation Affects Academic Performance: A Structural Equation Modelling Analysis. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22354335/

Pink, D. H. (2011). Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Edinburgh, Great Britain: Canongate Books. Reeve, J. (2018). Understanding Motivation and Emotion. Hoboken, NJ, United States: Wiley.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness (1st ed.). New York, New York: The Guilford Press.

Sinek, S. (2011). Start with why. London, Great Britain: Portfolio Penguin. Sinek, S. (2017). Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (Reprint, Revised ed.). New York, United States: Penguin Random House.

Willingham, D. T. (2015). For the Love of Reading: Engaging Students in a Lifelong Pursuit. American Educator, (Spring), 4–13. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/sites/ default/files/ae_spring2015.pdf

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