This series of articles was written for the Birchwood community by Head of School, Charles Debelak, and can be found in the Birchwood School of Hawken 2013-14 Clipboard Newsletter. The purpose of Mr. Debelak's Clipboard articles is to provide parents with information about sound educational principles and child development issues gleaned from history, contemporary research, and Mr. Debelak's 40+ years of educating, coaching, and counseling children, young adults, and parents.
If motivated, every child will learn. From this simple premise, educators rightly conclude, “We must motivate our students.” The conclusion is true, but it is only half the story. We need good teachers who can motivate students, but students must assume personal responsibility to be motivated.
Children should understand there are reasons why they must be engaged in their learning whether they are intrinsically motivated or not. Laurence Steinberg, distinguished professor of psychology and an expert in youth development, writes in Beyond the Classroom, “It is important that educators continue to search for ways of making learning intrinsically motivating, but given what we know about the motivational histories of students once they have reached high school, it is equally important that students believe that success in school has extrinsic rewards as well.”
Steinberg explains further that parents should cultivate the value of a good education, even at an early age. If students grow up understanding and embracing the value of an education, they will also be motivated to apply themselves to schoolwork even when they enjoy or do not enjoy their coursework. Their motivation will be linked to purposes beyond how they feel at any given moment or what they like to do at any given moment.