As parents work to motivate their children as learners, it is important to think about how one learns self-motivation strategies. Motivation can differ for disciplined repetition, frustrating challenges, and continuous improvement and quality. Listen as Steve explores the differences and provides opportunities for engaging in discussions and shares examples for how to empower your learners.
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Parent Well-Being and Student Learning During School Closures
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on education, I’ve started a new podcast grouping called Parent Well-Being and Student Learning During School Closures. The hope is that these podcasts can be forwarded on to parents by teachers, schools, and districts to help support them and in their new role with their children during this time. Feel free to send me your questions or suggestions that I can share with others. You can contact me at sbarkley@PLS3rdLearning.com. Thank you for listening.
Announcer : 00:02 We are all facing the unique challenges of working and learning from home. The near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools or NESA is holding it’s next networked learning series featuring Steve Barkley. “Personalized Coaching With Steve Barkley” will address the unique challenges and opportunities instructional coaches, administrators, teacher leaders, and mentors are presented with during this time. Take your skills to the next level with this online, facilitated, personally coached, six week program with Steve Barkley. Learn more at barkleypd.com.
Steve [Intro]: 00:43 Hello and welcome to the Parent Wellbeing and Student Learning During School Closures Edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. With the extended closing of schools, we as parents have entered into a new territory regarding what we have known as “school learning.” With this and future podcasts, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner.
Steve: 01:16 Motivating learners. Several years back, I listened to a TED talk by Reggie Rivers, a motivational speaker. And the title of his talk really caught my attention. It was, “If You Want to Achieve Your Goals, Don’t Focus on Them.” That struck me as a contradiction, but then Rivers illustrated that goals are of little value if they don’t lead a person to the identification and the implementation of specific behaviors that will produce the desired goals. If I focus on the behaviors, the goal is likely to be achieved. Focusing on the goal will not necessarily cause the identification and the discipline to practice the needed behaviors. Goals are outside of our control, behaviors are in our control,” said Rivers. Weight loss is a great example. I had to lose some weight a few years back and I had to learn to stay off of the scale. You see, when you jump on the scale, you’re focusing on the goal and very often you get bad news back when you step on the scale.
Steve: 02:42 Instead of focusing on the goal, I needed to focus on the behaviors. The exercise, the salads for lunch and the fruit for a dessert. Stay with the behaviors and the weight will drop. It’s rather common for students to set goals for increased learning outcomes without clearly identifying and committing to the behaviors that would create the achievement of the goals. I witnessed this when I was visiting an elementary school class and had students share their writing folders with me. One student told me that he had a goal and I asked him what his goal was and he said that it was to move his score from a 2.5 to a 3.0. When I asked what he needed to do to make that goal happen, he told me that he needed to improve his accuracy with punctuation and to have greater variety in his words. I then asked him what he would do to make that happen and he looked straight at me and said, “I have no idea.”
Steve: 03:56 So I have a student motivated to achieve a goal, but not knowing what the behaviors are that he would need to commit to implement. So I shared with them that one behavior that I would suggest is that he get a list from his teacher of places where commas are used. And if after every draft writing he produced, he went back and pulled that list and he looked at the first place commas were used and did he have any of those? Look at the second place commas are used did he have any of those? Look at the third place, did he have any of those? And I suggested that if he were to carry that behavior out for a month with each of his pieces of writing, he would see that he started putting commas in the correct spot right in his draft. So as you’re working with your child at home, consider that you want to be motivating the behaviors rather than motivating the goals.
Steve: 04:59 Let’s look how motivation might differ depending on the behaviors that a particular goal requires. Some goals require practice and repetition. In that case, you want to be motivating discipline. Most skills like playing an instrument or making pottery or sewing. Learning a second language, applying punctuation correctly, labeling parts of the body in anatomy. In these cases, you’re motivating discipline. Discipline to carry through the repetitions. These tasks can be boring and it’s okay to understand and label that upfront. Praise your child for sticktuitiveness. Reinforce that the desired outcome, the skill or the learning will come from their discipline. Perhaps you can illustrate how they can reward themselves. After 20 minutes of practice, take a break, charge up to perhaps complete another 20 minute practice. When you can identify that the student is making progress, meaning, you’re seeing indicators, you’re seeing evidence of the learning happening because of the discipline, point that out to them.
Steve: 06:26 I’m studying German now on Duolingo and after I practice long enough I can get five correct in a row and when I do, built into the system is a little celebration that jumps up onto my screen. Notice how that’s built into the gaming apps that your children take part on. When they get to the next level, they feel motivated and rewarded and extend their practice time on the next level. Now when the task differs, the motivation differs. So sometimes you need to motivate your child to deal with a challenge. They’re taking on a task that they don’t know how to do. In this case, I need to motivate trial and error and attempts. So each time that they try a strategy, try an approach and it doesn’t work and they’re willing to go back and take another look, another approach, that’s the behavior to encourage and reward.
Steve: 07:31 Challenging tasks often causes us to feel a struggle and to feel frustration that we need to push through. A quick search on
YouTube, will uncover many skateboarding clips where you’ll find great examples of falling, falling, falling before the breakthrough. This is different from practicing. When you’re practicing, you know what it is you need to do and you keep doing it over with repetitions. In those skateboarding examples, a person is looking to discover, uncover the solution, the strategy that works for them. When your child has a learning success, a breakthrough where they’ve mastered a challenge, be sure when you celebrate with them that you’re being very clear to identify that it was the repetitions, it was the willingness to get back up and try again, that led to their success. And yet a different area for motivation is motivation for quality.
Steve: 08:47 When am I focusing on continuous improvement versus getting the job done? In this case, it’s important to learn to use feedback, to learn to ask for feedback, to request ideas from people on how I might improve this, and to begin to engage in self-assessment. Can I compare what I’ve produced to a example that’s been provided for me or a model that’s been provided and begin to see the difference between what I’ve produced and that model? There’s a great video clip that describes this called “Austin’s Butterfly. If you just search that online Austin’s Butterfly, you’ll find it, but I’ve also included the link in the introduction to this podcast. You can only apply motivation for quality when the task is important enough for a student to want to invest in it. That’s why real tasks make a great opportunity for students to learn the motivation connected to continuous, quality improvement.
Steve: 10:03 Writing a convincing message is worth quality when I’m going to send the message to the person that I want to convince rather than just turning it into my teacher for a grade. This may be the time when students have more time on some assignments to take a look at something that they’re interested in enough to begin to work on motivating continuous improvement for quality. Give your child approval when they are willing to go back and make additions, make modifications, start over with a goal of increasing the quality of what they’ve done. Take some time to identify your different kinds of motivation for different tasks. When do you need to use discipline to complete a task? How do you motivate yourself? When do you face a challenge or a frustration, finding something difficult? How do you motivate yourself in struggle? When do you focus on quality and ask for feedback and use self assessment? How do you motivate yourself to have a quality focus? If you use rewards, either tangible or intangible, to motivate your learner, be sure that the focus is on learning to self motivate actually more than on achieving the goal. The key here is ongoing conversations about the behaviors that empower you to reach your goals. I encourage you to invest with your children in those conversations. Empower them to know how to set goals, but more importantly, identify the underlying behaviors and make commitments to those behaviors. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 12:23 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean, and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.