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Motivation Quick Tip Student Perspective

Student Perspective: School is Starting, Please Send Help!

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom.

Many students, myself included, are facing increased stress as the school year begins. Even before school starts, students are already stressed with summer work.

More Work, Less Choice

Every year it seems that the work assigned in the summer has grown in quantity. When I was younger, we were told the goal of summer work was just to encourage us to read. But in high school, there is more work and fewer choices.

Stressful Timing

Summer school work poses an issue as I try to balance my summer activities with this work. The school intends for summer work to be done slowly throughout the whole summer. However, being tested on most of this work makes it even worse, because I have to do it in the last two or three weeks of summer, so I don’t forget the content. This leaves me stressed about the tests I will have on the first or second day of classes.

0 to 100!

It’s standard for the first couple weeks of school to be stressful; getting used to a school schedule again and seeing people I haven’t seen for three months are just a few of the stressors. Coming back to school feels like being dropped into a new environment. I like to think of it like a fish being dropped in cold water. Usually, you raise and lower the temperature of fish tanks slowly, so the fish isn’t shocked by the temperature change. But going back to school is an abrupt change, and it is overwhelming.

I’ve only explained a few reasons why going back to school can be so stressful for students. It is important that teachers, parents, and anyone supporting a high schooler be aware of students’ emotions and heightened anxiety during this time.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Math Motivation

Metacognitive Strategies for Math

Teaching students to actively think about their thinking and monitor their comprehension of concepts and procedures is an important part of becoming a successful math student.

It is no secret that metacognition is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. When students think about their thinking and learn about their learning, they are better able to understand their strengths and challenges. When it comes to math, there are a number of ways that teachers can help their students become strategic learners and promote students’ self-awareness.

Find What Works

When you find a strategy that works for you, stick with it. Write it down and keep using it. This is a simple and often overlooked strategy, but it helps to stick with what makes sense for each student.

Acronyms

Acronyms can help students remember organizational processes. Here are a few examples:

RAPS Math Strategy - read and rephrase, art, plan and predict, solve
RAPS Math Strategy

RAPS:

  • Read and rephrase
  • Art
  • Plan and predict
  • Solve

CUBES:

  • Circle the numbers
  • Underline the question
  • Box the key words
  • Evaluate and eliminate
  • Solve and check
Two column chart that has know in the first column and need to know in the second column
Know/Need to know Chart

KNEES:

  1. What do you KNOW?
  2. What do you NEED to KNOW?
  3. Which Equation will you need?
  4. Substitute and solve

Brain Dumps + Self-Checking

Many students may be familiar with brain dumps as the first step in the writing process, but they can also be used in a math context. Encourage students to write down their remembering tricks for procedures and formulas to use as a reference at the top of a test or quiz.

One effective way to help students check their work for the most common errors is to teach the SMARTS lesson Top 3 Hits. In this lesson, students use previously graded assignments to check for their most common errors. Then, students generate a list of their personal Top-3-Hits and create a funny phrase to check their own future assignments. Interested in trying out the Top 3 Hits lesson? Request your free Top 3 Hits lesson plan (please indicate the grade level you teach).

Metacognition is the key to success in school and beyond, not to mention the use of executive function strategies. Thanks to Joan Steinberg, Director of Educational Therapy at ILD, for sharing her expertise and tips for this blog post.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
growth mindset Metacognition Motivation

Motivation Monday: Flow State

Can you remember the last time you completed a task and were really “in the zone”? Positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura (Claremont Graduate University) describe this mental state as flow state. (link opens in new tab/window) Achieving flow state is about the careful balancing of skill level (low, medium, or high) with challenge level (low, medium, or high). 

A graph displaying skill level on the x-axis and challenge level on the y-axis. Flow state is achieved when skill and challenge levels are both high.
Courtesy of Amber Case on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/caseorganic/5528981189

Those who have experienced flow state describe feeling the following characteristics:

  1. Intense moments of concentration
  2. Deep involvement in task; merging of action and awareness
  3. Feelings of control over one’s actions
  4. Thorough enjoyment of the task at hand
  5. Time feels like it flies by

Why it matters for education

Helping students reach flow state means helping them balance their skill levels with the appropriate level of challenge. This process can start with activities that promote self-awareness and self-understanding. When students reach this state, they will feel successful, confident, and empowered.

The research around flow state can also have a positive impact on the way educators approach deep learning and the structure of the school day(link opens in new tab/window) . While the noise and energy of a bustling classroom may be beneficial for some students, constantly shifting attention from one subject to another after brief periods of time can prevent students from reaching flow state. When time and other factors allow, offering students extended periods of time (with short movement, brain, or sensory breaks) can allow them to engage more deeply with tasks and topics. 

Takeaways

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Motivation Recommendations Teaching EF Tips

Motivation Monday: Attribution Theory

Attribution theory asserts that motivation depends on learners’ interpretations of their past successes and failures. Specifically, learner conceptualizations of the locus, stability, and controllability of past successful or failed outcomes influence if and how hard learners will try on similar tasks going forward. Here are some examples of what these characteristics(link opens in new tab/window)  might look like:

  • Locus: Was I successful on that test because I studied hard (internal factor) or because I got lucky (external factor)?
  • Stability: Will my effort/luck stay the same (stable) or change (unstable) over time?
  • Controllability: Can I control whether I do well on the next test (controllable) or is my success out of my hands (uncontrollable)?

Why it matters for education

Educators can play a critical role in helping students foster adaptive attribution styles. The benefits of certain attribution patterns are situationally relative. For example, an external attribution for a disagreement with a friend (“They were just having a tough day”) may benefit a student’s mental health. Contrarily, an external attribution for poor performance on a test (“It was my teacher’s fault”) may be maladaptive to a student’s motivation to put in effort on future assignments.

Takeaways

In education contexts, students are most likely to adaptively approach setbacks when they see challenges as internal, unstable, and controllable. A student with this attribution pattern might tell themselves after they perform poorly on a test, “I didn’t study in the best way for me, and I can make adjustments to how I prepare in order to improve next time.”

To help learners adopt adaptive attribution styles, consider the following approaches:

  • Teach students to see their success and failure as a product of their own effort (rather than ability). Statements like, “Great work—I can tell you studied a lot!” can go a long way.
  • Give students specific feedback. For example, when handing back a math worksheet, say, “It looks like you struggled most with dividing fractions on this assignment.”
  • Help students understand that failures can be addressed with appropriate strategy use. For the math worksheet example above, you might follow up with, “What strategy has worked for you in the past for mastering multiplying fractions? How can you apply a similar strategy to division?”
  • Create a classroom culture that values effort and persistence over being smart or good at a subject. If your students enjoy public praise, recognize students who you can tell work hard to improve their learning.
  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Motivation Teaching EF Tips Working Memory

Motivation Monday: Constructivism

Constructivism is a theory of learning (link opens in new tab/window) that revolves around the idea that learners construct their own knowledge based on personal experiences and within their sociocultural contexts. In other words, knowledge cannot be separated from the context in which it occurs. Constructivists also believe that the motivation to learn is inherent within the learner, personal, and a prerequisite to successful learning.

Why it matters for education

Constructivism posits that many people learn best when they are allowed to discover essential information for themselves after working through a partially guided segment or lesson. (In the SMARTS curriculum, students engage in a metacognitive activator, guided instruction, independent practice, and reflection).

Constructivism also has clear connections to real-world learning across the subjects. For example, one study found(link opens in new tab/window) that students were more motivated to learn science topics when they had more opportunities to relate their learning to real-world issues. 

Takeaways

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Equity Motivation Recommendations

Motivation Monday: Cultural Responsiveness

Why we need to consider culture when assessing student motivation

As educators, we talk a lot about using research-based practices. However, data shows(link opens in new tab/window) that 96% of participants in educational psychology research are from WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic)(link opens in new tab/window) countries, even though only 12% of the world population live in WEIRD areas. In light of this stunning disparity, 21st-century researchers have begun investigating whether patterns of motivation vary across diverse populations.

So far, the answer to this question has been a resounding yes; it is inequitable to solely rely on models of motivation based on WEIRD research. The distinctions in motivational forces across Western and Non-Western, collectivist and individualistic(link opens in new tab/window), and even generational and community cultures call for student and family-centered adaptations of motivational theories to classrooms.

Takeaways

You may be wondering, what can I do if “research-based practices” might not apply to my students?

 The good news is that many motivation experts, administrators, and educators have suggestions for how to account for and embrace cultural diversity when addressing student motivation in the classroom. These suggestions include:

  • Reflect on your own biases and assumptions regarding whether and why some students are “inherently” motivated or unmotivated. How can you challenge any assumptions you identify?
  • Consider using a beginning-of-the-year questionnaire(link opens in new tab/window) to ask caregivers what motivates their children. You might be surprised by the variety of extrinsic, intrinsic, relational and aspirational motivators parents and guardians name.
  • Adopt culturally sustaining teaching practices. Culturally sustaining pedagogy extends beyond the reach of culturally relevant pedagogy by incorporating rather than simply complimenting students’ diverse wealth of cultural knowledge into classroom instruction.

Interested in more information about theories of learning and motivation? Take a look at our posts on Behaviorism, Goal Orientation Theory and Growth Mindset, Expectancy-Value Theory and Self-Determination Theory.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Motivation Teaching EF Tips

Motivation Monday: Expectancy-Value Theory

Expectancy-value theory , developed by Jacquelynne Eccles, Allan Wigfield, and their colleagues, posits that motivation (M) is the equal to the product of expectation of success and value of the goal:

Expectancy-Value Theory posits that motivation is equal to the product of a student’s expectation of success times how much the student values the task or goal.

In this equation, expectation of success (E) can be understood as how competent a student feels in completing the task or meeting the outlined goal. Eccles and Wigfield break value (V) into four sub-components:

  • Intrinsic value: How much do I enjoy this task?
  • Attainment value: How important is it that I do well on this task?
  • Utility value: How useful is this task for my life?
  • Cost: What am I giving up to complete this task?

If either factor (expectation or value) of the equation is equal to zero, then the product (students’ motivation) will also equal zero.

Why it matters for education

While expectancy-value theory does not account for all aspects of motivation, it can begin to reveal the reasons why a student is feeling unmotivated.

Students might not articulate that they do not feel like they can succeed at the task (expectation). Instead, they might see a difficult problem and not attempt to complete it. If a student feels that they won’t get the question right, this would negatively impact their motivation.

There are many reasons why a student might not value a task. Getting to the “why” behind a student’s reluctance to complete a task can determine a path forward (e.g., Does the student not have appropriate executive function strategies? Can the length of the assignment be adjusted? Can the task be made more enjoyable or relevant?). 

Takeaways

  • Ensure students have the strategies and scaffolds necessary to succeed at their assigned tasks. Do they know how to get started on the problem or task at hand? Can they break down what is expected of them into a checklist?
  • Sweeten the task: When it is challenging for students to see the utility value of an assignment, or if they feel it will take too much time and that they could use that time for something else, try to “sweeten the task.” At the outset of an assignment, encourage students to select a reward for themselves (e.g. snack, video break, acknowledgment that they are independently accomplishing their goals) for when they accomplish challenging or “boring” tasks.
  • Help students see the “big picture” and model your own experiences. If students can’t see the value of a certain task at the moment, show them how you (or favorite celebrities/sports stars) use the skill or executive function strategy.
  • Focus on students’ effort over ability. Remind them of their capacity to grow and persist, even when they face challenges.  
  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Goal Setting growth mindset Motivation

Motivation Monday: Goal Orientation Theory and Growth Mindset

Goal orientation theory posits that students engage in any given learning activity for one of two reasons. If an individual has a performance orientation towards a task, they complete it because they want to demonstrate competence, usually to an audience they seek approval from (e.g., peers, teachers, parents). Contrarily, an individual with a mastery orientation towards a goal hopes to gain knowledge or develop a skill for understanding purposes. In other words, someone with a mastery orientation wants to learn out of interest in a particular domain, to “learn for the sake of learning.”

Why it matters for education

Research shows that mastery orientations support the highest quality of learning for students. Students with mastery orientations are more likely to seek academic challenges and persist in learning difficult concepts. Further, mastery orientations bolster the effects of executive function strategy use by providing students with the intrinsic motivation to think flexibly and focus their effort on furthering their academic knowledge and understanding.

Educational psychologist Carol Dweck presents a particularly meaningful perspective on goal orientation theory by encouraging teachers to support students’ growth mindsets. A student with a growth mindset believes their skills and talents are malleable and a product of effort, and they are more likely to develop mastery orientations towards academic tasks.

Takeaways

Teachers and parents can make small adjustments to their language to help foster a growth mindset in children. Here are some ideas.

  • Praise student effort rather than ability. For example, instead of telling a student who aced a math test, You’re so good at fractions! say, I can tell you studied a lot for this test — keep up the hard work!
  • Remind students of their ability to grow. Carol Dweck’s talk on growth mindset highlights the positive effects of infusing “yet” into conversations with frustrated and overwhelmed students. Help students reframe I’m so bad at math to I just don’t understand this topic yet.
  • Teach students that mistakes are learning opportunities. You can do so by embracing mistakes yourself — own up to a time you did something incorrectly and explain what you learned from the experience.
  • Keep students’ academic scores private from peers. Re-consider hanging scored student work on the wall and academic award assemblies. For students who value peer recognition as a reward, praise students’ effort and actions.

Growth mindset interventions have the potential to lessen the effects of poverty on academic achievement. With this exciting possibility, it is important to note that applications of growth mindset theory cannot succeed without robust academic skill instruction and support. SMARTS’ executive function curriculum helps all students develop the strategies they need to benefit from growth mindsets.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., SMARTS Intern

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit in 2022

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as metacognition and motivation, strategies to support students with long-term projects and project-based learning, embedding EF in the general education curriculum, and the intersection of EF and social-emotional learning. Learn more and register today

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Executive Function Motivation Quick Tip

Motivation Monday: Behaviorism

Behaviorism is a theory of learning that focuses on students’ interactions with their environment; learning occurs when there is a response to the right stimulus. Students’ behaviors change because of interactions with stimuli in their environment.

Behaviorism is not concerned with internal changes; instead, it focuses on observable changes in students’ actions. For example, rewarding students for meeting the class goal of handing in their assignments on time is an example of positive reinforcement — adding in a desired stimulus. Removing weekend homework as a result of improved class behavior is an example of negative reinforcement — removing an undesired stimulus.

Why it matters for education

Learning does not happen in a vacuum — we have to consider the context and environment, especially for executive function strategy instruction. Are the EF demands appropriate for students? Do they have the strategies they need to meet expectations? By creating a classroom environment that fosters executive function strategy use and positive student behaviors, we can bring about change in students’ actions.

Behaviorism also underlies patterns of positive reinforcement. For example, if a student has difficulty completing tasks independently, subtle praise when the student meets their goal can encourage this behavior. Scheduling fun (yet educational) activities can also help students associate school with positive feelings.

Takeaways

  • Consider external rewards (e.g., praise, free choice activities, rewards) when tasks are new or difficult.
  • Extrinsic reinforcement can also be helpful when students are completing non-fulfilling activities (e.g., drill-and-practice tasks to gain mastery in foundational skills such as math facts).
  • As students gain mastery, switch the focus from external rewards to intrinsic rewards (e.g., deemphasize grades by acknowledging progress made in the learning process, encourage pride in one’s work).   
  • Be clear about which behaviors lead to which consequences, both positive and negative.

We are launching a “Motivation Monday” series here on the SMARTS blog to explore various theories of learning and motivation. Look for the second post which will cover goal orientation theory and growth mindset.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit in 2022

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as metacognition and motivation, strategies to support students with long-term projects and project-based learning, embedding EF in the general education curriculum, and the intersection of EF and social-emotional learning. Learn more and register today

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org