It’s quite common to find that by week 3 or 4, students are losing the initial surge of motivation found at the start of the year.
When it comes to motivation, there are 3 kinds of students:
Fully Motivated Students
Somewhat Motivated Students
The challenge for parents is how to respond to the category your child belongs to.
Fully Motivated Students:
Your student has a clear idea as to what he or she wants to do after year 12, has a course mapped out, and knows exactly what marks need to be achieved to reach that goal. Students with highly clarified and defined long and short term goals tend to be highly motivated, and do not usually require any external encouragement to keep them on course.
What can you do?
Because your child has the motivation to work, your key challenge is ensuring they do not burn out through the course of the year. High school is a marathon, not a sprint. Simple questions like "how are you finding the workload at the moment" particularly around exam time will give you a great deal of insight into how they are coping.
Somewhat Motivated Students:
These students tend to know what ‘sort’ of career they want after high school, or university/TAFE, but don’t really know with all that much certainty. For example, they will often be tossing up between two courses, or will want to study a particular course, but have a limited understanding of what the course actually requires and looks like.
What can you do?
These students require goal clarification. As they already tend to have broad or poorly defined goals, you have something to work with. Options include getting students to read through university handbooks (available online at all university websites), as this gives them a clear picture as to whether their general post-high school goal is what they thought it was. They also require a serious discussion, which can be with parents, or parents and the school careers coordinator, about the grades required in their subjects to generate the entrance score they need for their goal. If their current grades have them on a trajectory which will miss out on this entrance score, this often serves as a motivating wake-up call to increase their efforts with study.
Unmotivated students tend to lack motivation due to a lack of direction for their careers after high school. They generally don’t know what they want to do when they graduate, whether it be going to university, TAFE, or work placement. As a result when they sit down to study they tend to become overwhelmed with a sense of apathy.
What can you do?
These students tend to lack even an ill-defined goal, so the best we can do to get them motivated is help them form a goal to begin with. This will involve getting them passionate about a type of career or vocation that they can see themselves doing after high school. There are many ways to get this process started. Some of the easiest involve taking your son or daughter to university open days, where they can see university pathways mapped out, and experience a tangible taste of university life. I would even suggest having them sitting in on a university lecture if possible. Other options include having them sit down and speak with your friends and colleagues who work in different industries. For example, if a friend of yours works in an engineering firm, and your son finds maths to be one of his stronger subjects, having the two sit down and discuss what it is like to work in the industry will potentially sow the seeds of a more specific and defined goal, i.e. to get into engineering at Monash University, later down the track. This then opens the goal-defining strategies of the second tier students, and finally clears the way for your son or daughter to achieve an intrinsic level of motivation.