Chicken and motivation or success


Chicken and motivation or success

4 Aug ’21 Teaching 0

What came first? Motivation or Success? A debate most staff rooms have hosted on numerous occasions. For most of my career I believed that motivated students did well academically. Because they were motivated. And so, I sought out opportunities to teach motivated students. Top sets students (not that I was correct). I thought that motivated students made for enjoyable teaching (that felt about right). But I also enjoyed teaching “bottom” (low prior attaining) sets. I got a kick out of challenging their perceptions of their own abilities. Rounding the wagons. Instilling a self-belief in confidence-bruised students, albeit a lot harder more emotionally draining, was a different kind of enjoyable teaching. The dividends were always greater if more unpredictable. And who isn’t inspired by Rita Pierson. If you can ignore her message, you can not ignore her delivery. — If is a big word here.

Feel free to challenge me if you think that is unfair or misrepresentative.

Post grit and post mindset, I had been developing and deepening commitment to routined retrieval practice. Writing the knowledge decks (retrieval prompt pairs) served the dual purpose of professional learning and teaching materials for class. I would also come to learn that road testing the decks, would strengthen the deck, and therefore the learning it supported. It didn’t take long for me to notice the impact of learning and relearning, although I called it retrieval practice at the beginning. No reference to spacing, no thought to the type of content being retrieved and very little thought given to feedback or elaboration – just retrieval. In early November 2019, I wrote the phrase “success-motivation-success cycle” for the first time, even though I couldn’t explicitly tell you what it was or define it, I knew it was there. It was a palpable climate change within lessons that was contagious. What is more, it rapidly accelerated following the students overwhelmingly positive response for personalised, spaced retrieval practice with Anki app. It convinced me to commit more time to this area of Cognitive Science and the motivation-success association has lurked in shadows ever since. Either as motivation, as agency or as confidence. Maybe all three?

Fast forward two years. Many iterations teaching with RememberMore later, a refined and operationalised routine (RRRR-RRR) that includes “Reorder” has been added to Classroom. A nod to Kate Jones @KateJones_teach design. The ability to simply reorder the prompts, so that students get another exposure to the same quiz prompt, a swift successive chance to experience success. And until you use Classroom yourself, you will have to trust me, even the subtle reordering of prompts offers sufficient challenge when the knowledge is not yet understand or encoded, or the retrieval strength is weak. Yes, Classroom is flirting with the dangers of retrieval fluency, but that is in the classroom, this is teaching, and teachers are able to decide whether to ⤵️ Reorder before 🔄 Refresh.

What is the Success-motivation-success cycle

The success-motivation-success cycle is the palpable climate change in lessons when students recognise that their investment in testing is working. Success promotes motivation, motivation elevates success. Creating and ensuring the conditions for success and instilling a sense of belief are important. It is warming and assuring. Proving to students that learning is attainable is cold and irrefutable. A six question quiz is quantifiable. Success-motivation-success kicks in every time I have taught with RememberMore. It kicked in with five colleagues, teaching at five different partner schools, teaching with RememberMore. Always in and around the 10-14th lesson mark. Nearer 10 when the spacing is tighter as with core subjects or where the teacher-class relationship was established, Or where there is prior knowledge of the deck knowledge. Given the cycle is so consistent, so regular, the confidence, motivation and agency of RememberMore is a common conversation with teachers using Successive Relearning and RememberMore. Next follows what is now possible, that the students are on board.

The impact of achievement on self-concept is greater than the impact of self-concept on achievement.

Attributed to Professor Daniel Muijs

Then back in May 2021, Dr Christian Bokhove @cbokhove shared a handful of references on motivation. Bookmarked for reading.

Here what I already knew about test taking

Numerous studies have provided supporting evidence for the motivation of test taking. Schrank (2016) found that class quizzes increase attendance; Heiner, Banet, and Wieman (2014) reported that a preannounced quizz encourages students to read the assigned textbook material and prepare better before class; Yang et al. (2017) showed that frequent tests drive learners to allocate more time to learning; Szpunar et al. (2013) observed that learners make more notes when they are frequently tested; Jing et al. (2016) found that frequent tests reduce task-unrelated thoughts (i.e., mind wandering) while watching lecture videos; and Weinstein et al. (2014) found that frequent tests induce high test expectancy which in turn boosts test performance.

Here is what I learnt from two Pekrun papers 

Pekrun, et al., (2017) results imply reciprocity. Where positive emotions (enjoyment and pride) positively predicted their subsequent end-of-the-year math grades, and grades, in turn, positively predicted the development of positive emotions. Where Math-related negative emotions (anger, anxiety, shame, hopelessness, and boredom) were negative predictors of subsequent math grades, and grades, in turn, were a negative predictor for the development of negative emotions. These findings were consistent for seven discrete emotions, four time intervals, two different measures of achievement (grades, test scores), while controlling for students’ gender, intelligence, and critical demographic background variables.

Emotions indeed have an influence on adolescents’ achievement, over and above the effects of general cognitive ability and prior accomplishments.

Pekrun, et al., (2017)

These findings go beyond correlational evidence for achievement and emotion, disentangling the directional effects underlying the emotion-achievement link. It is why ‘Reorder’ is such an important feature in RememberMore. Teachers should know: “Success is expected to generally increase perceived control, thus enhancing positive emotions, and failure is expected to decrease control, leading to negative emotions,” Pekrun et al., (2017). Is the success-motivation-success about perceived self control?

I learnt that emotions have effects on adolescent” students’ academic achievement and that these effects are not merely a by-product of prior knowledge / performance. More likely, they represent a true causal influence of students’ emotion experiences. Pekrun’s advice: strengthen adolescents’ positive emotions (and minimize their negative emotions). 

A second advisory came from an earlier paper, students with opportunities to experience success and mastery over competition goals may help to promote positive emotions (and prevent negative emotions) Pekrun, et al., (2014). Makes sense.

More evidence

In a second paper, Kriegbaum, et al., (2018) reviewed the relative importance of intelligence and motivation as predictors of school achievement in a meta-analysis of 74 studies (N = 80,145). They reported average correlations between intelligence (r = 0.44) and motivation (r = 0.27) with school achievement and between intelligence and motivation (r = 0.17). A path model showed that 24% of variance in school achievement was explained overall, of this overall explained variance in school achievement, 66.6% was uniquely explained by intelligence and 16.6% uniquely by motivation. Hereby the results showed that both intelligence and motivation contribute “substantially to the prediction of school achievement.”

To end, I will leave you with this short story that Lindy Barclays tells (former headteacher who helped lead her school to four Outstanding Ofsted inspections), of “the wrong Tim.” It was an awards ceremony, and the prize for Creative Writing when to… “the wrong Tim.” An outgoing and chirpy boy, who had shown modest interest in the subject, less in creative writing, but chirpy enough to triumphantly accept his prize. Rethinking his place in the world, at least his English world that is, “the wrong Tim” went from strength to strength. Securing both his English qualifications, exceeding all his Year 8 teachers expectations by some way. At the time, Lindy didn’t mention the success-motivation-success cycle nor did she mention the reciprocity of motivation and achievement, but then again, neither did Rita Pierson.


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