09 March 2013

Enhancing student motivation and performance

Christodoulou, A., Duncan, J., & Nelmes, G. (2013). Enhancing student motivation and performance: Tools that develop and support informed choice. IB Journal of Teaching Practice, 1(1). Retrieved from

In their article from the inaugural edition of the IB Journal of Teaching Practice, Christodoulou, Duncan, and Nelmes identify four strategies designed to empower student choice in their school. Student choice manifests itself in the ways that students perceive their own learning styles, choosing assignments that connect to their perceived learning style, assessment via a common performance rubric that captures student work regardless of assignment choice, and post assessment reflection and survey that measures student motivation  Adopting an action research model, the authors show that student motivation and performance on assessments increases after the intervention of the particular strategies that they have developed. The authors conclude that, "The students felt empowered as their understanding of themselves as learners increased, and their confidence grew as they engaged with the learning opportunities, resulting in heightened motivation and performance."

These findings are of course consistent with Pink (2009); that individuals are motivated by their sense of autonomy, their mastery of a subject or problem, and their sense of purpose. Student choice is about what and how they learn are essential pilliars of both differentiated instructional models and a Results Only Learning Environment (Barnes, 2013). Christodoulou, Duncan, and Nelmes' research is also perfectly appropriate for the use of simulations and games in class. Students can identify roles that they wish to adopt and explore in simulations; representing a particular country, committee, and or topics in Model United Nations for example. This sense of autonomy in what role the student takes is undoubtedly a preferred option to motivate students rather than mandating particular roles or assignments. Using a common framework for assessment-narrative feedback on position papers, speeches, and draft resolutions-allows students to continually develop their mastery of their chosen country, committee, and topics. Perhaps most importantly, a student's sense of purpose is undoubtedly found in the process of participating in the Model United Nations simulations and post-simulation debriefing and reflection.
Student choice is an essential pillar for meaningful learning. Student agency enhances student motivation, which in turn makes constructing authentic, experiential learning environments possible and more successful for students and instructors alike.