Monday, September 20, 2010

What’s my motivation?

As any student knows, it can sometimes be impossible to get started on homework. Even worse, little evidence shows that homework actually improves the grades of students! For younger students, little to no correlation was proven between time spent on homework and the students’ performance in class; the correlation for older students (middle school and beyond) proved modest at best. Why then do students continue to do homework? Surely if all pupils boycotted homework then the practice would be abandoned, right?

Research shows that students complete homework assignments because they feel they have to (as a duty) and to avoid the punishment of not following orders. As researchers, and anyone else, can tell you when a person is forced into doing something that something becomes less pleasurable and maybe seen as a punishment in itself. By association, being ‘forced’ to do homework is being ‘forced’ to do school work thereby making school (and learning) unpleasant. So why do we continue to be assigned homework?

Because when students take on assignments out of enjoyment (rather than duty) they retain the material better, earn higher grades and participate more in class.

Psychologists believe that when teachers can motivate their students to want to do their assignments, as opposed to doing them grudgingly, that the students will not only do better in school but also in life. According to research conducted by Katz, Kaplan and Gueta students in middle school felt less motivational support from teachers than students in elementary school and also felt less desire to do assignments. Unfortunately the researchers did not give any hints for future teachers to help motivate our students, but they did mention that the rate of students who resent homework correlated with the rate of students who had/were entered/ing puberty. Also noted was that as most students entered puberty they also started to assert their need for autonomy and stopped asking for help and recognition in regards to assignments.

While the researchers gave the teachers a way out, puberty cannot be the root of all evil. It was noted that students will do the work if they like it so students who wish to be writers would not object to writing the five to ten page paper, but how can we get those same English motivated students to care about History? Maybe the answer lies not in motivating the students but also the teachers, because those who love what they do also love to teach what they do. Basically, both teachers and students have a lot of homework to do in order to make homework less work.

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