Welcome to Motivation Matters, a new blog sponsored by edweek.org.
The concept of motivation has been a topic that has fascinated me for years, beginning in high school in the late 70s and early 80s, when I was in daily awe of my valedictorian older brother, who spent hours in his bedroom mastering chemistry and physics while I rode the “rising tide of mediocrity” (Nation at Risk lingo) into the TV room or down the street to a friend’s house to put off until tomorrow the academic work I really should have done yesterday.
But all that changed about halfway through my checkered college career. Riding the rising tide of mediocrity had become downright depressing. I began spending more time in the library and less in the downtown bars, I found intellectual pursuits more satisfying than ever, and I had the fortunate experience of having some excellent professors who motivated me. But most of all, my attitude adjustment occured because of fear—the fear of limited opportunity.
My fascination with the issue of student motivation is matched by educators’ interest in it. (See “Student Motivation: What Works, What Doesn’t.”) That’s why I wanted to start to this blog. Over the years, in my conversations with educators when I was interviewing them for stories or simply just talking informally, the issue of student motivation emerged no matter what we were discussing. Most educators seem frustrated by the pervasive attitude that “just getting by” is good enough, but inspired by those kids who push themselves hard and seem to have a thirst for all things intellectual. Teachers and administrators are searching for ideas and tactics for improving student motivation, and I hope this blog serves as an entertaining and useful tool for them to achieve that goal.
So let’s get this blog going with some important questions to ponder: What motivates the students in your schools? Why do students work hard for one teacher, but just skate by with another? What tactics work best to get them fully engaged in their classes? Is it a balancing act between encouraging young people, but also making them feel a little afraid of the consequences if they don’t work hard?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.