April 30, 2021

Motivation and Learning 

One of the many positive responses we have seen to the challenges we faced over the last 12 months, is how our students are enjoying and appreciating being at school.  There are of course many influences including friends, teachers, the playground, co-curricular activities, inspired learning – and so much more!

The ‘so much more’ can be found in a community; it’s purpose, rhythm, routine, support and consistency. All of these factors are important to wellbeing, learning and in the development of motivation and building resilience in a person.  They are uniquely human factors, because school communities, like ours, engender a sense of belonging and engagement.

Earlier in Term 1 as we entered a ‘circuit breaker lockdown’ and moved to remote learning for three days, our focus was to maintain consistency in learning for our students. We tried not to make too many modifications to the timetable to ensure some predictability for the students to keep them in the rhythm of their learning; to keep them motivated.

Last year I was invited onto an international webinar panel featuring Dr Bror Saxberg a leader in the research and development of innovative learning strategies. The focus of the webinar was on the way that motivation unlocks learning and I was asked to reflect on Dr Saxberg’s work and how it influenced our programs during lockdown.

Dr Saxberg describes motivation as a cognitive and affective process that influences whether a person

> starts a learning task,

> persists with the task once it is started and

> invests adequate mental effort to succeed.

Challenging times can impact motivation and we continue to live through a challenging time with an undefined end point. It is therefore important to understand the key factors that impact motivation and how we can intentionally design our learning experiences to address them.

Through his work Dr Saxberg has identified four key motivation factors that we need to consider when designing our learning. They are:

> Values

> Self-efficacy

> Attribution factors

> Emotions

Firstly, the factor of values acknowledges that we all have different backgrounds, different identities and cultural histories.  As educators we can assist our students to be motivated to engage and persist with their learning by connecting it with lived experiences.  This of course means knowing our students and building a relationship so that we can personalise their learning experience where possible by connecting it to their lived experience or interests.

Secondly, the factor of self-efficacy is about our belief in our capacity to succeed.  It is important that we can help our students see that they ‘can do hard things’.  A great example is the pivot to remote learning last year with little notice or preparation.  Our students managed the change and learned new technologies, processes and strategies throughout this time.  We build self-efficacy by showing our students what they have done before and share stories about the success of others to help them see possibilities.

Attribution factors are about finding things that get in the way of learning.  This can be anything from lack of time, resources or even the need to blame others when things don’t go to plan.  Again, it is about helping to demonstrate to our students that they have agency and can solve problems.  This can be done in familiar ways like showing them what they have done before, sharing the success stories of others, or by highlighting fundamental strategies like breathing to focus and listening or demonstrating how to look for causes of issues and problem solve.

Finally, a person’s emotions can have a significant bearing on their motivation. Negative emotions including anger, fear, depression and personal anxieties can be approached in a variety of ways from deep listening conversations, through to activities to build community and if needed, professional help.  Professional help can include working with our school counsellors or external health professionals.

As we continue to design our learning at Camberwell Girls and look towards the future, we will develop some asynchronous opportunities that enable choice and personalisation of learning. However, there is no doubt that building motivation to enhance learning is founded in the establishment of authentic relationships through real experiences with our students, so that they feel a sense of belonging to a community and as a result, excitement to learn.

‘A Century of Stories’ Book Launch

Last Wednesday evening, members of the school community gathered in the School Library for the launch of, A Century of Stories – a celebration book produced to celebrate the 100th Birthday of Camberwell Girls Grammar School.

This event was to be held last year, so excitement was certainly in the air as the book was unveiled for the first time.

It was a delight to welcome the publisher, Neil Montagnana-Wallace and author Jacqui Ross as our special guests. Neil and Jacqui shared an insight into the work that they carried out over two years to produce the book. They also spoke of the importance of storytelling.

As a school, we felt a book of stories was appropriate to honour the school’s 100th birthday, as a formal history book was produced for the school’s 90th birthday.

A Century of Stories opens with a short yet comprehensive history and is followed by a series of 100 stories. These stories capture the voices of so many members of our community, conveying the culture, history and values that permeate an education at CGGS. The photographs and light-hearted anecdotes provide a real glimpse into life at CGGS through the decades.

The book truly captures the spirit and essence of our school and most importantly, celebrates 100 continuous years of providing an outstanding education for young women. Designed to be picked up and read as and when you feel like it, or from cover to cover if you so desire – each page illuminates the school’s history in ways that ensure the present makes sense, whilst encouraging us to think a little more about the future we wish to create.

The book is for sale and can be purchased here.

With best wishes,

Debbie Dunwoody