Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Helping Your Teens To Learn Not Just Achieve

As you ready yourself for your teen's academic year, I thought that this article would be an interesting read for you. It talks about cheating behavior in college students and what motivates it. It turns out that the students who cheat the most are not lazy good-for-nothings, but students who define themselves by their scores and grades. We call this extrinsic motivation. They are not motivated to learn because the topic is interesting, or has meaning for them, or might be useful at some point in their life (intrinsic motivation) but for the grade that appears at the top of the page. If the meaning lies in the grade, then a student will do what they have to do to get the grade, even if it means cheating.

As parents, you have a HUGE impact on whether your teen is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to learn. If you only focus on "what did you get on your quiz/exam/paper/project? or when your teen gets a high grade or score, you focus on the number or grade and congratulate them on their achievement "yay you got an A!!"rather than congratulation them on their effort and mastery: "hey honey, you worked really hard on that project, or studied really hard for that test, or you seem really turned on by this material and it shows in the grade, you set them up for grade motivation rather than learning motivation. If you reward your teen for good grades, and punish them for bad grades you set them up for extrinsic motivation for learning. These kinds of students rarely master the material in any meaningful way. Just learning for the test.

How about focusing on and rewarding for effort rather than outcome. When you see your teen really focusing on schoolwork and making an effort, congratulate and reward them for that. "Hey I noticed you're really in gear tonight with your homework, good job! Engage them in conversation about what they are learning, not how they are doing in a particular class. Get a hold of their history or biology textbook,  or see what they're reading in english, and engage in real conversation about the material. Show an interest in the process of learning not just the outcome. Asking questions like: "so what are you learning in history these days?" is not helpful. Reading the same book they're reading in English, and then engaging in a conversation about the characters in the book, that is helpful.

Let your teens know that you are not only interested in what they get, but how they get there! 

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