23 Jul

Work Ethic and Motivation

I was wondering if there are any strategies that I may use in order to increase a students work ethic. Mainly just trying to encourage him to do more than what I set and there teacher sets for homework.

Work ethic is something that comes from having the right motivation. Individuals with strong work ethic typically do not work hard just for the sake of it. They get something out of it, consciously or not.
One useful model for motivation is centred on towards/away from motivations. This works on the principle that one way or another every human being taken any action for only one of two reasons:

  1. To move toward something desirable/pleasurable
  2. To move away from something negative/painful

If you wish to improve your student’s work ethic you should start by understanding what motivates him? What are his goals? What does he want to do after school and why? Typically, students in high school and primary school are only vaguely aware of their own motivations so you may want to do a formal goal setting session with him to understand what he wants.
Some common towards motivations for students studying maths:

 

  • Please parents
  • Be smarter than their friends or siblings
  • Increase opportunities for secondary studies
  • Increase variety of employment opportunities
  • Self esteem and personal development/satisfaction
  • Material rewards from parents

Some away from motivations that students don’t try enough in maths:

  • Don’t want to risk failure or affirm their inadequacy/insecurity
  • Fear of being labelled as a nerd by friends/peers
  • Wanting to remain similar to their underachieving friends
  • Not wanting to experience boredom
  • Not wanting to miss out on social opportunities due to study commitments

 

There are many motivators for either direction, above are just a few examples. The point is that you need to understand your students’ motivations and use them.

At the same time consider other possibilities, perhaps:

  • he is just not being challenged enough and taking him ahead of his class will make him rise to the challenge
  • he doesn’t know how to work harder and has no concept of how to do this or that it is advisable
  • his family, teacher or peers are discouraging him one way or another

Long story short is, understand your student and then perhaps you can improve his work ethic. However, you will probably only be able to do this if you find a way to make learning maths match his motivations.

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