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Leading and managing teaching and learning

It’s time to focus on the motivation, not the examination Liam Printer

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s a teacher, what frustrates you most about students and competence is concerned with students’ perceptions about their their learning? Asking this question in 2020, when we are capacity to achieve success. all suffering from Zoom-fatigue and fogged-up glasses, is For my Doctorate of Education thesis, I have put SDT to the likely to raise a rich and diverse range of comments. Nonetheless, test, engaging upon a year-long research study with a group of the frustrations we share are inherently similar; students not beginner French students and their teacher, relating to their handing in work on time, arriving late and unprepared, not experiences of learning languages through storytelling. I found that participating in class, low-level chatter, using phones in class, Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) is repeating the same error after we’ve explained it for the 87th a method of language teaching that, when delivered properly, can time… We can all relate to many of these issues that are satisfy all three of SDT’s basic psychological needs simultaneously, commonplace in schools globally. thus resulting in highly motivated and engaged learners. Thanks Now, think about the opposite: the times when you really love to the co-creative story building in TPRS, participants reported your job, when everything is going well in the classroom. Thankfully, believing they could ‘steer the learning’ and direct what would this prompt is also likely to result in a variety of responses: happen next, which led them to feel ‘more involved and in control students all contributing, excited engagement in a topic, insightful of their learning’ while their teacher also felt more ‘freedom’ questions and remarks, assignments that ‘wowed’ us, students and autonomous in her role. In addition, they emphasised how visibly enjoying their learning. the stories helped their understanding, that they could ‘easily So how do we move from a position of frustration to one of remember it all’ and it ‘really improved their speaking’. Their satisfaction? With motivation. When our teacher felt good at her job as students students are motivated, they participate, were engaged and smiling in lessons. She they arrive on time, they hand in quality felt competent. Finally, they highlighted that work, they ask great questions and produce stories meant everybody was ‘included’ Students with more thought-provoking, insightful, knowledgeable and ‘everybody gets to participate’, as answers. They smile, they laugh, they want intrinsic motivation not their ideas are accepted and inserted to improve, they want to learn. When we into the story. This created a strong bond only have improved have motivated, engaged students in our to the class as ‘you don’t get judged’ classes, we feel good at our jobs, we feel because ‘everyone was doing it as a group’: grades but also report like our kids are progressing, we feel like we thus meeting the psychological need of higher perceived chose the right career, we feel like we are relatedness. making a difference, we feel motivated. It’s competence, self-esteem Yet more important than achievement a mutually beneficial cycle. But how do we outcomes, in my view, is students’ mental and lower dropout achieve motivation? What do we need to growth and wellbeing. SDT research shows ‘do’ so that we have motivated learners in that support for the three core basic our classes? Are there any ‘quick fixes’ for psychological needs bolsters students’ motivation that we can apply straight away? wellness, regardless of age, ethnicity, and The good news is yes: there are things we can all do, with culture, and that thwarting these needs causes harm. Students very little time and effort, to increase motivation amongst our with more intrinsic motivation not only have improved grades but learners. Ryan and Deci’s (2000) Self-Determination Theory also report higher perceived competence, self-esteem and lower (SDT) of motivation provides an easy-to-follow roadmap to dropout (Ryan and Deci, 2020). Although not all students can or bolster intrinsic motivation in the classroom. Intrinsic motivation will excel at exams, schools should be inherently compassionate involves engaging in tasks out of pure joy, enthusiasm and interest, contexts that support students’ mental health, and, most as opposed to extrinsic motivation which uses external pressures, importantly, do no damage. rewards or coercion to achieve an outcome. Notably, several Despite the strong evidence base attesting to the importance meta-analyses over two decades point to the significant role of of intrinsic motivation, research from multiple countries suggests intrinsic motivation in school achievement. SDT, which originated that it actually tends to decline over the school years rather than in psychology, has been extensively researched and tested across flourish. Schools are simply not creating a context that fosters this a variety of domains, and is widely accepted as a robust method unique, inner resource. Policies specifically aimed at enhancing the to augment motivation. According to SDT, intrinsic motivation is psychological needs of teachers and students are unfortunately fostered when we engage in activities that meet the three basic few and far between. Instead, we continue to be forced to work psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness and competence. within strict frameworks of mandated curricula and high-stakes Autonomy is related to choice, self-direction, student ownership testing. In short, there remain significant gaps between what SDT of learning and personalisation of themes; relatedness refers to research tells us about motivation and the dominant policies and a sense of belonging, support, inclusion and relationships, while practices in schools. 22 | International School | Winter 2020