Thursday, October 13, 2011

Student Motivation and Classroom Currencies

"What we call 'motivation' in school is really a decision students make to invest their currencies in our classrooms." --Robyn R. Jackson (2011)
Students have different values in different dimensions.  Their behavior is purposeful.  Students make decisions, consciously or unconsciously, on whether or not they have the currencies we are asking for and whether or not they believe this currency will help them achieve a desired outcome or particular need.
In the context of classrooms, their are four primary forms of currency:
  • Knowledge: This includes knowledge students are taught explicitly as well as background knowledge and skills. 
  • Soft skills: This includes study skills, organizational skills, time mangement skills, cultural competencies, and other skills that help students navigate the school culture.
  • Social skills: Learning is socially mediated; social skills inovlve knowing how to read a situation and when to say what to get a desired outcome.
  • Network affiliations: "The communities and social groups to which students belong also shape their priorities and give them information on how to behave in various situations."
"Our students' decision to invest in the classroom is directly related to whether or not they have the currency our assignments, activities, and broader academic and behavioral expectations are asking for--and whether or not they believe that currency will help them achieve a desired outcome or meet a particularl need."
As teachers, we can demystify and explicitly teach these skills to our students.  We can also teacher students how to invest in our classrooms so that they can achieve better.
The Hixson book club will be reading more about these currencies in Never Work Harder than Your Students by Robyn R. Jackson (2010).

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