Motivating failing kids requires new measurement strategies
- At-risk students who perform poorly on standardized tests often crave success and are in danger of becoming apathetic and unmotivated without alternate ways to measure progress, Learning Architect Farhat Ahmad explains in Ed Surge
- At-risk students are often overwhelmed by attempts at quick remediation or a focus on mastering too many standards and respond better when the focus is on performing fewer tasks at a higher level of rigor.
- By creating ways to show students how much they have improved regardless of standardized test scores, teachers can help them see how they are developing skills such as improved communication, a stronger work ethic and an ability to focus and learn new tasks — all areas that can give them confidence as they move into higher education or the workforce.
Every teacher knows that the hardest student to teach is the one that does not seem to care. Apathy and a lack of motivation can frustrate a teacher and worse, can infect other students in the classroom, especially if the apathetic student is a class leader. There are several reasons for student apathy, but most often it is because either the student feels he or she cannot do the work or because they feel the work has no relevance to their lives.
The impact of standardized testing on student motivation is also up for debate. A 2003 research report in Education Leadership examined the issue and concluded that such tests do not increase motivation. However, other authors argue it does. The reality is that it depends on the student. Students who generally perform well on tests are often more motivated than those who perform poorly. For one, the test signals another mark of achievement. For the other, it is a mark of shame.
There are some strategies teachers can use to improve motivation, especially for younger students. Older students are more likely to respond when they see progress made toward achieving life goals such as earning a decent income or being recognized for their talent. While standardized testing is required in schools today, schools may need to look at alternate measures to determine student success and progress toward life goals.