Thursday, July 18, 2013

From motivation to volition

The topic of grit and motivation has been in my thoughts lately. My students do not necessarily lack motivation. They are motivated to succeed, they want the grades; they want the pride; they want the status. What is it then that is keeping them from achieving?

In search of an answer I have been reading Paul Tough's "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character". While not actually a road-map, this book has brought to the forefront the idea of volition as actually more important than motivation, and the question "How to teach students to choose to achieve instead of just want to achieve?"

Don't get me wrong, wanting is great. Unfortunately wanting is not enough. For example: I want my students to succeed, and therefore, I spend hours souring for and developing lessons that will engage them and motivate them. I look at standards, set goals, develop rubrics, include interesting videos, games and simulations. This approach has worked for me and my students report loving my class. Together we have done some good things.

However, if instead I had "chosen that my students succeed", the framing of those good lessons would have been different. Tough states, "Choosing creates the bridge between the present and the future reality. It identifies obstacles and leads to the creation of specific implementation plans which allow you to overcome said obstacles." With this in mind, I would have delved more deeply into what they actually need to succeed,  identifying obstacles in the process, and leading me to develop not only the Science content that I teach, but also the related skills in ELA, Math and Social Studies. How great could my Human Body 2.0 project be, if I tie in social structures, ratios and public speaking? If this is true, I need to go back and move things from good to great.

In this context, then I also need to let the students experience the change. In the 20% time that I am planning, I need to explicitly model and have students move from the motivation of "I want to become ..." to "I choose to become ..." The Ted Talk pitch will need to reveal the choice, and the action plan will need to precisely identify obstacles and ways to overcome them. This is where I see the mentors as a key piece in the puzzle.

With this goal in mind, "I choose to become better at my craft." Now, I need to go develop my action plan!