The saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way”. I’ve been blessed to work with fantastically committed teachers, support staff, governors, parents and pupils during my career who through sheer will power have made some great things happen. Motivation matters if you want to succeed.
Talk of character, resilience and growth mindset have abounded in the twittersphere and on blogs over the past few years. As I’m sat typing I actually wonder whether the Growth Mindset bubble has already burst for some schools or teachers whilst I’m still prevaricating. My concern is that Growth Mindset – the power of “not yet”, the motivational poster and exhorting pupils to “work hard” – has not (yet) produced the desired improvement in outcomes expected in some schools. If you’re feeling a like another silver bullet has been fired and missed the target it may be necessary to just slow down and dig a bit deeper.
Self-Regulation: Maintaining Motivation & Academic Buoyancy
Part of the challenge for us in an ever frenetic school system is finding the time to understand the underlying issues. It’s about building a conceptual framework of understanding that allows us to own the thinking in order to act intelligently as a teacher or leader. This deeper understanding is part of re-establishing our professional authority within the educative process.
I’ve designed a mini framework or process to help guide me. As a school we need to understand the big picture and key concepts in which to root our work. The next stage will be to find a way of assessing needs at an individual and organisational level and the programmes to address them identified. Sitting across the whole development of healthy minds and healthy mindsets will be the need to start from the staff room and build out: what will we stop doing to give us the time to do this well? What systems and resources do we already have in place that we can utilise more effectively? What development do staff require if our work on motivation and academic buoyancy is to have maximum impact? Thinking twelve months ahead of implementation is part of the job and this work, whilst rooted in a current issue for us, won’t go live till the next academic year.
Martin & Marsh (2006) identified five factors to predict academic resilience also termed buoyancy, namely, “self-efficacy, control, planning, low anxiety, and persistence. Hence, a 5-C model of academic resilience is proposed: confidence (self-efficacy), coordination (planning), control, composure (low anxiety), and commitment (persistence).”
The model is important as it providers a wider construct in which to look at schools’ holistic implementation of Growth Mindset and why a superficial approach won’t get very far. It potentially links together Growth Mindset, Resilience, Academic Buoyancy, Metacognition and Self-Regulation in a way that allows the whole to become more than the sum of the parts. It also chimes with experience, stereotyping to make the point; the high attaining, hardworking female student whose anxiety about doing well in future examinations and belief that she will fail becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The scale used by Martin & Marsh (2006) consisted of a number of measures for each element of the student engagement and motivation wheel (see above). Take a minute to read the questions. They really help clarify what might be happening inside a pupil’s head when sat in class or a home trying to learn. It’s not too difficult to use them from a leadership perspective and think about staff and their boosters, mufflers and guzzlers.
Reading the self-handicapping one I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry and some pupils’ anxiety and belief in their ability to control and influence their life is profoundly worrying. Compared to how I see life it is a real eye opener. Just as an aside the planning one may need to be extended in practice to include strands of monitoring and evaluation to have real impact. A beautifully written plan which remains unimplemented is of limited use.
Moving from the idiosyncratic to the systematic, where we seek to enhance the motivation of every child, will require a detailed analysis of needs. We are fortunate to be working with Right to Succeed as part of Blackpool Challenge. The Right to Succeed Charity’s mission is to develop, pilot and scale solutions to educational inequality. They are bringing a wealth of experience and some very interesting metrics. One of these metrics is the Mental Toughness Questionnaire (MTQ48) which unsurprisingly is a “48 item psychometric measure using the four key components of Mental Toughness, known as the 4 C’s.” There seems a useful overlap with the work of Martin & Marsh (2006).
The suite of questionnaires available has one designed for teachers. If you want Mental Toughness in the class room you need it in the staff room first. It may be a useful starting point to ask staff to complete a questionnaire for themselves as a way of starting the staff development process. Care would be needed around confidentiality and thought about how to support a member of staff whose mental toughness is fragile in one or another area. Not diving straight in and thinking things through may slow down implementation initially but has many advantages in the longer term.
Having an Impact
Having worked to develop staff and then administered the MTQ48 questionnaires to all pupils will create an opportunity for us to impact. Specific programmes may be needed for some cohorts of pupils in each of the 4C areas and thought given about how to align our current systems, policies and processes with an academy wide focus on building enhanced motivation. It may well be that form tutors have a key role to play at a class and individual level. From delivering components of PSHE around the 4Cs to the individual mentoring of pupils from their forms, using the outcome of the mental toughness questionnaire to enhance their motivation, the possibilities are wide and varied. There will be a need to narrow down what we will do first and what we may implement in future years. I think many parents will be fascinated to find out about their child’s data and willing, with support, to help. There are other individuals and companies who work in this field that we may need to consider. I’ll keep thinking.
As an aside, posts that tend to be the most read on my blog are those that are either topical or have a ready practical application to the class room, for example the #5MinPlans. Ones like this, the more theoretical in nature, often plummet in terms of reader numbers; you need great powers of persistence to keep going. If you’ve got this far well done.