Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Motivating Students: School Psychologists as Motivational Change Agents

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Motivating Students: School Psychologists as Motivational Change Agents

Article excerpt

Motivating the academically unmotivated has been called a "critical issue for the 21st century" (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000), and some people believe that "a thorough understanding of student motivation ... is essential towards transforming schools" (Gilman & Anderman, 2006, p. 325). Based on these needs, the Self-Regulation Empowerment Program (SREP; Cleary & Zimmerman, 2004) was developed to support school professionals in empowering adolescent students to engage in more positive, self-motivating strategies for learning.

We have had many positive experiences providing motivational interventions with diverse, urban, at-risk adolescents in small groups through the SREP and in a consultative role by sharing teaching methods that maximize student self-determination with classroom educators. Our small group intervention work is designed to bolster school motivation and academic outcomes. We do this by addressing the cognitive and affective needs of youth and showing them the power of efficient and effective learning strategies. In this article, we will share the small-group intervention experiences that we have had through the SREP program. We hope that our experiences will empower other graduate students to seek out and utilize motivational approaches to improving student academic performance.

Teachers are an instrumental part of the success of SREP. They collaborate with us to identify students who are not performing at a level commensurate with their capabilities. This identification process includes performance indicators (grades) as well as ratings of students' behaviors, such as homework completion and accuracy, and class participation. They also collect parental consent, provide our team with student data (grades, work samples, curriculum lesson plans) and complete pretest and posttest rating scales so that we can follow student behavioral changes that occur throughout our intervention.

School psychology graduate students-"coaches" as we are called within SREP-receive training prior to the intervention. Coaches facilitate small groups, generally consisting of 2-4 students. Groups meet twice per week for 40 minutes per session over the course of 12 weeks. This program requires a large commitment of time from both the coaches and the students who voluntarily participate in our program. Our collaborative efforts with students take place either before or after school, a requirement set by the cooperating school administration. This requirement is often a barrier to student attendance and we are actively attempting to implement SREP during the school day so that more students can access the services we provide.

The autonomy and choice given to the coaches and to the students serves as a cornerstone of SREP. The students decide whether to participate in the program, the extent to which they will engage in discussions of their thoughts and feelings related to school and learning, and whether or not they will utilize the strategies we share and demonstrate with them. In these ways, we believe the program empowers youth and fits within the purview of a positive psychological perspective, a framework that works to improve the well-being and learning of individuals by tapping into personal strengths and interests, rather than by diagnosing and attempting to impose change (Hunter & Csikszentmihalyi, 2003).

Generally, the students we work with in this program experience deficits in self-motivation toward a particular subject and/or use poor strategies to learn. We have worked with numerous students through SREP over the past 3 years with the intention of empowering them to improve their academic performance in mathematics and science.

Lewis is in many ways typical of the type of student we encounter in our work. Like most students, Lewis wanted to do well in school. He had good grades in middle school but had not been exposed to complex academic material or effective learning strategies that he needed in order to perform well in a more academically rigorous high school setting. …

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