Motivating secondary school pupils is not easy
Hanneke Knoop-van Nuland (Educational Sciences) offered VMBO (pre-vocational secondary school) pupils various types of motivating information as part of an assignment. Unfortunately, this did not improve the intrinsic motivation of these puypils to learn – as opposed to the outcome of similar studies in higher education. On 5 April Van Nuland defends her dissertation at Leiden University.
Of all school-age pupils, 60% attend a VMBO school. These pupils’ motivation is crucial to their well-being and performance. But how can a teacher motivate his or her pupils? Van Nuland collaborated with 10 schools to investigate possible motivation strategies.
There are no less than 36 different motivation theories – which means that the gap between theory and practice is too wide to be bridged, says Van Nuland. This is why she chose in her research to carry out a few practical tests with VMBO schools and, for the sake of comparison, also with VWO (pre-university) schools: she gave the pupils various kinds of motivating information. As an example, on the reasons for learning. Why is this useful to know? So that you can later read your favourite magazine! Or on how to learn. How do you tackle an assignment? Think it through before you start.
Unfortunately, her research shows that this motivating information did not help to increase the intrinsic motivation of VMBO pupils. This is in contrast with previous research of this type into higher education. Van Nuland did observe that boys especially reacted positively when told that a certain assignment would show that they were good at something. And she notes that VWO pupils did not react differently to the tests than the VMBO pupils.
So what next? According to Van Nuland, the next step is to find out whether there are more drastic methods for influencing motivation that actually would help. For instance, letting pupils chose their own assignments, or letting ICT play a more important role in education. She also proposes that researchers should work mostly on the basis of concrete questions from teaching practice.
Van Nuland’s findings do not mean that she is negative about VMBO. ‘The VMBO’s negative image can be dispelled simply by taking the trouble to actually go and look at what goes on in the classroom,’ is one of the additional propositions of her dissertation.
Van Nuland’s PhD research is part of Self-Regulation and Motivation, one of the research themes of the Educational Sciences research field within the Institute of Education and Child Studies. The other research themes include Learning and Cognition, Professional Development, and Assessment and Learning in Teams.
Hanneke van Nuland
Eliciting classroom motivation. Not a piece of cake
PhD defence ceremony:
5 April 2011, 15.00 hrs