Pitfalls in the Classroom- Behaviours and Thoughts that reduce Academic Motivation

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, we all want our children and students to reach their full potential in the classroom.  We try our best to encourage and motivate, but let’s be honest, sometimes it works and sometimes we fall short.  In order to provide our children the support that they need, it is important to learn what is causing their lack of motivation.  The same way we wouldn’t expect a doctor to be able to treat an illness without knowing what it was, we may be trying to help our children in their studies without properly identifying the problem. Let’s explore some common behaviours and thoughts that reduce academic motivation and impact academic performance.

Problem #1: Disengagement.

Sometimes the material is just not interesting. Who can really blame your child or student for not being interested in absolutely everything? Especially as students begin to identify areas of interest, they will equally begin to identify areas of disinterest.  So how can you keep them motivated when they are just not interested?  Try to connect academic requirements to real world situations, perhaps if they understand why it matters, they can find motivation to complete the work.  Also giving students freedom to make meaningful choices throughout projects can be helpful. For example if your student hates science, but is allowed to select a topic for their science project, they will be able to choose something they may have some level of interest in.  Allowing students to make choices also give them ownership of the project and will in turn, boost motivation.

Problem #2: Performance Anxiety

When a student does not feel in control of their own academic future, anxiety can begin to impact schoolwork.  When the primary motivation is to ‘not fail’, it severely impacts overall motivation.  Sure, some level of anxiety can be helpful, as it is a motivator to study for exams or hand in projects on time, but if your student feels as though the cards are stacked against them, they may not even try to complete projects with a fear they will fail anyway.  As a teacher, being clear about expectations and grading can prevent this fear.  If you are a parent of a student who isn’t motivated due to a fear of failing and unclear expectations, if appropriate, encourage your child to reach out to the teacher for clarification on grading expectations.  This may allow your child to feel more in control of their academic outcomes and boost overall motivation.

Problem #3: Self Sabotage

Finally, it may be possible that your student may be unintentionally self sabotaging their studies. The word ‘self sabotage’ is important because in this scenario, sabotage may be buried behind many different emotions. The student may not fully understand what is happening.  Why would a student purposely sabotage their academic future?  Perhaps they are coping with a divorce at home and poor academic performance leads to concerned conversations from parents.  Even if these conversations aren’t necessarily positive, at least mum and dad are paying attention and in agreement. If a student feels as though they are being pushed into a particular academic program that they don’t want to pursue, perhaps not making the grades to get in will be beneficial? There are many reasons why a student may sabotage their studies by not participating or intentionally not putting forth the effort needed to succeed.

If you are a teacher or a parent who is concerned about a student’s academic motivation and behaviour, utilising a professional psychologist can help identify problems as well as provide support in working through those problems. If you would like to book in a time to speak to a psychologist, contact us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Procrastination: Your Perfectionism may be the Problem
Creative Ways to Help Children with Learning Disorders
Ways to Boost a Child’s Confidence

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