Now that the 2015-2016 school year is coming to a close and educators are developing last minute reviews and testing guidance for students prior to summative testing, it is essential to focus on the motivation behind student performance and goal setting. As much as this time could be used to venting about state mandates and test reliability, especially when there have been apparent flaws in the validity of testing this year, let’s turn our focus on the relationship between student, teacher, and the assessment. I firmly believe that the success in education comes from the trust established in the classroom. Co-authors, Anthony S. Bryk and Barbara Schneider wrote a book entitled: Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement, in this text the central focus of trust comes from the motivations of the principals and teachers and showing in our actions that our motivations are true to bettering schools, teachers, and most importantly the students.
At the beginning of the year, multiple conversations are held in my classroom for the sole purpose of developing this relational trust. During these conversations, I stress to the students not to let grades be the focus or motivation for academic excellence, but to strive to set their own individual goals for accountability. The goals come from the student after taking survey tests at the beginning of the year that focus on core reading, writing, and analytical skills. The students’ set goals are then compared to the state’s projection for proficiency and a majority of the time the student’s goal is higher than the state’s projection. Goals are monitored through the year for remediation and/or enrichment. These goals are more important than the letter grade because they hold the student to a true and tangible standard.
Some students will be motivated by grades whether the motivation comes from themselves, college admissions, or their parents and there is nothing wrong with this, but in general curriculum classes, these examples of motivation might not be as tangible as advanced placement courses. Therefore, teachers must find other forms of motivation through establishing trust and developing the students to set their own levels of success. The downfall of letting grades be the only motivation is the uncertainty based on the event that the student realizes the flaws in the testing and/or the test will not count for or against them. If grades have been the only motivation, then what if there is no grade tied into the end-of-the-year assessment. Students lose motivation.
If the student has established their own goal of accountability and the teacher has proven to the student that the teacher’s true motivation is to guide the student to that goal then the teacher has developed relational trust. Weeks prior to the end-of-course, I stress to the student that they study for themselves rather than a state mandate, grades, or even for me as their teacher. When the student goes back home, it will be within themselves to find the reaso and true motivation to open the book or study guide.