Why does getting your child to do something for you one day seem so simple, yet another day seem almost impossible? The good news is that educational researchers from around the world have also wondered the same thing, and have found some answers. Just like the proverbial struggling actor trying to define his character, it comes down to the simple question of, "What's my motivation?"
Types of motivation …
Things that motivate your child can all be organized into two main categories: intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) factors. When kids are intrinsically motivated they do not need external forces or pressures to motivate them, they do something because it feels good, they like to do it, or they value the outcome. However, other times the only way to motivate a child is through extrinsic factors such as offering a reward or a punishment.
Motivating students …
One traditional approach used to motivate students in school is to use grades as a reward or extrinsic motivator–telling students that if they work hard, they will learn, get good grades and/or pass or graduate. This system typically works well for students who already get good grades.
Similarly grades can also be used as a punishment – telling students that if they don't work hard, they will get poor grades and/or fail. While this approach can improve results for some, it doesn't work well with students who repeatedly experience low grades or failure.
Enter better techniques …
The good news is that in 1998 a comprehensive review of over 250 studies on student achievement was conducted by two British researchers (Paul Black and Dylan William), resulting in several key changes schools and parents can make when giving feedback. These included: (1) giving more on-going (formative) feedback instead of waiting until the end (summative), and (2) being more descriptive in the feedback / assessment data given.
Assessment for learning …
While final tests and other methods used to assess how much we know at the end of a unit are still important, the studies showed that is the on-going or formative feedback that students receive that can make the biggest difference in how well they do. After all, regularly telling a person what they are doing well, or areas they need to improve allows for correction along the way instead of waiting until the very end.
Using descriptive feedback …
As well as making feedback more frequent, researches found giving specific feedback about the quality of the work, strengths, and weaknesses helped to improve both student motivation and performance—as they could better see what they are doing right and the areas that still need improvement. For example, instead of getting a "C" written across the top of the test, comments could read something like: "You recognized which word problems required addition. However, keep practicing addition with re-grouping." Both forms of feedback show the learner how he/she did overall, however descriptive feedback also helps the student see how close he/she is, and where to focus or make adjustments in order to improve.
So whether you are trying to motivate your child to do chores around the house, or teach him/her in school, the experts agree … give lots of descriptive feedback (praise & guidance) along the way, and an easier time is sure to be had by all.
About the author
An award-winning educator and Parenting & Youth Coach,
Rob Stringer BA, BEd, CPC has spent almost two decades helping kids,
teens, and adults meet with success, and live lives they LOVE! Although
based outside of Toronto, Rob's coaching practice is global with teen
and adult clients around the world.
Ready to give your child a head start on success? Check out Rob's coaching programs and workshops for parents and youth. Visit www.YouthCoachCanada.com or call 905.515.9822.