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September 1, 2014
Vol. 72
No. 1

Double Take

Research Alert

Hopeful—Or Stuck?
<P ID="stuck">If you were to ask 600,000 5th through 12th graders how hopeful they felt about school, how engaged they were, and how positively they rated their lives, what do you think they'd say? These are important questions to ask because they drive motivation in school.
Gallup did just that in its 2013 Gallup Student Poll, which it reports on in its recent publication, State of America's Schools. Here are some findings:
  • Fifty-four percent of the students surveyed were "hopeful," whereas 32 percent felt "stuck," and 14 percent felt discouraged about the future.
  • Fifty-five percent reported being engaged in the learning process; 28 percent reported not being engaged (that is, "mentally checked out"); and 17 percent reported being "actively disengaged" from school and likely to spread that negativity. Respondents who agreed with these statements—"My school is committed to building the strengths of each student" and "I have at least one teacher who makes me excited about the future"—were 30 times as likely as those who strongly disagreed with the statements to be emotionally engaged at school.
  • Sixty-six percent of the students surveyed fell into the highest well-being category, "thriving," whereas 32 percent fell into the "struggling" category and 2 percent into the "suffering" category.
Only 33 percent of the students surveyed scored high on all three dimensions (hopefulness, engagement, and well-being).
To fuel student motivation, the report suggests that schools should
  • Monitor their students' sense of hope, engagement, and well-being because these are significant predictors of academic achievement.
  • Focus on student strengths through creating "strength advisers," establishing clear goals, and ensuring access to resources that complement student strengths.
  • Recognize the importance of teachers' ability to connect with students to help them envision their futures.
State of America's Schools: The Path to Winning Again in Education (2014) is available at http://products.gallup.com/168380/state-education-report-main-page.aspx.


Engaging students in classroom discussion can be difficult to do in a fair and evenly distributed way. For teachers armed with smartphones, a few apps can help:
  • <LINK URL="http://www.classeapps.com/pick-me">Pick Me!</LINK> provides random student names for you to call on and enables you to record feedback on the interaction and e-mail the results for formative assessment purposes.
  • <LINK URL="http://classcardsapp.com">Class Cards</LINK> enables you to quickly rate the quality of a student's response and lets you put a student on hold until he or she is ready to respond.
  • <LINK URL="http://www.classdojo.com">ClassDojo</LINK> enables you to establish several desired behaviors—such as participating in classroom discussions, working effectively in teams, or persisting with challenging work—and to give students instant feedback on those behaviors. Students create funny, cartoonlike avatars online and monitor their progress as you provide feedback by awarding points.

Relevant Reads

The Motivation Hacker by Nick Winter (Nick Winter, 2013)
On his way to Silicon Valley to start a new job, Nick Winter decided it was the perfect time for "lifestyle redesign." He decided to apply everything he knew about the psychology of motivation to accomplish 18 long-held goals—ranging from learning to write 3,000 new Chinese words, to launching a hit iPhone app, to going skydiving, to reading 20 books, to having significant conversations with 100 different people—in three months. The author describes practical motivation tips that readers can use—such as success spirals, pre-commitment, and burnt ships—to attain their own personal and professional goals.

Numbers of Note

87  The percentage of educators who strongly agreed that "engaging and motivating students is part of my job duties and responsibilities."
32  The percentage of educators who strongly agreed that "I am good at engaging and motivating my students."
68  The percentage of educators who strongly agreed that "I have adequate solutions and strategies to use when students aren't engaged or motivated."
19  The percentage of educators who believe that student engagement and motivation are "very important" to student achievement. (Engagement and motivation ranked higher than teaching quality, parental support, or family background.)
<ATTRIB> Source: Education Week Research Center. (2014). Engaging students for success: Findings from a national survey. Washington, DC: Author. Based on 504 responses to a survey that Education Week Research Center conducted of registered users of www.edweek.orgwho self-identified as a K-12 teacher or school-based administrator. </ATTRIB>

ScreenGrabs … On Motivation

  • In this lively RSA Animate, "<LINK URL="http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-drive">Drive</LINK>," Daniel Pink describes the hidden truths behind what really motivates us.
  • In this TED Talk, "<LINK URL="http://www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning">Three Rules to Spark Learning</LINK>," high school chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam shows how he uses student questions to ignite student interest.
  • In this TED Talk, "<LINK URL="http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley">How to Escape Education's Death Valley</LINK>," Sir Ken Robinson suggests three ways to turn the "death valley" of education into a fertile landscape for learning.


"If you can't come up with a good reason why a student needs to learn something, then it really raises the question, Should you be doing it in the first place?"
Daniel Pink

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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