Self-regulation key to middle schoolers’ motivation

iStock_000020536048XSmallMiddle school students know that school, and the math, language arts and science they are learning in school are important to their futures, but they lack the self-regulation skills to become engaged with their studies, concludes a recent report in the Australian Journal of Education. 

The survey of 333 Year 8 students (aged about 13) found that students reject the notion that the ability to do well in school is innate and believe that through greater effort they can succeed in school. However, the authors note that the students’ positive responses did not match their disengaged behavior observed in their classrooms.

“While accepting that diverse factors influence student effort at school, we assume, like many other researchers, that a key element in engaging middle years students is promoting their capacity to self-regulate their learning,” the authors write.

Two broad explanations have been used to understand student disengagement in the middle years: inappropriate curricular content and sociocultural and psychological factors.

“‘Self-regulated learning’ is broadly defined as the use of strategies to achieve academic growth and well-being goals,” they write.

The major findings of the 20-minute survey were that: · Students understand the importance of mastering key school subjects for later success · They believe intelligence is amenable to effort rather than fixed · They believe success at school is influenced by their own efforts.

Some future directions for research include evaluating students’ capacities to self-regulate their learning through accurate self-assessment, meaningful goal-setting and planning, and effective review. Future research also should examine types of classroom tasks and interventions that nurture self-regulation. Examples of interventions include working with English teachers on developing students’ self-assessments of their learning strategies in reading and working with math teachers to explore teaching approaches that involve greater student choice in determining both solution type and strategy.

“Junior secondary students’ perceptions of influences on their engagement with schooling,” by Peter Sullivan et al., Australian Journal of Education, Volume 53, Number 2, 2009, pp. 176-191.

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