As students transition from elementary school to middle school, their motivation to learn declines along with their engagement in learning. This decline is especially troubling for low-income, minority youth who are more likely to have struggled academically during their elementary school years. The decline in motivation and engagement, however, is not inevitable. What happens in classrooms can make a difference by promoting a set of beliefs that help launch young adolescents on positive educational and developmental trajectories. For two years, the Gardner Center worked in partnership with the Redwood City School District to gain a deeper understanding of classrooms that promote motivation, engagement and, ultimately, achievement among an ethnically and economically diverse population of middle school students. All middle school students in the school district completed surveys in 2009, and again in 2010, asking them about their motivational beliefs and their experiences in their classrooms. This analysis highlights three main findings: 1) Students’ motivational beliefs are significant predictors of their achievement; 2) Classroom practices that encourage effort and understanding and create a caring learning environment potentially yield higher achievement by increasing students’ motivation to learn; and 3) Changes in classroom practices are associated with changes in students’ motivation.
Strobel, K. (2010). Practices that Promote Middle School Students’ Motivation and Achievement. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities.