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Examines students' study motivation

Published: 1 April 2020

What is it that motivates students in their school work and can you find keys to unlock the individual's driving forces? These are questions that a new project at Luleå University of Technology hopes to find the answers to.

– We know that motivation is a fundamental dimension for learning and a decisive factor in acquiring new knowledge. However, we do not know what actually motivates the students in our schools, says Eva Alerby, professor of Education at Luleå University of Technology and responsible researcher in the newly started project. Ultimately, the study is about giving all students the opportunity to achieve approved grades..

– All students must pass with approved grades and then the question is how to get there. Is it that some subjects or parts are more motivating than others and what significance does the relationship with the teacher have. It can also be about things like internal and external motivation, it is the learning itself that drives the student or maybe the opportunities to study a certain university education. There is always something that motivates and drives us forward and our task now is to try to locate the keys and then implement the results in the teaching.

Pupil participation is crucial

The project that goes by the name “Must it be fun all the time? - A study on motivational factors for pupils in grades 7–9 ”will be conducted together with a project group consisting of teachers at the independent school Nya Läroverket in Luleå and will last for the next two years. The project is part of the national experimental activities ULF (Development, Learning, Research), which was instituted with the aim of creating closer links between academia and school.

In order to create a better picture of the students' various driving forces, the project team will allow the students themselves to answer what motivates them in school work.

– It is of the utmost importance for us and the school that the students are involved in the process. We will never get an answer to what drives the students if we do not actually ask them, says Eva Alerby.

Although motivation and personal impetus affect the study results, Eva Alerby feels that the educational policy focus on measurability will disregard other educational tools and approaches.

– No doubt there will be issues like these suffering. Today we only measure what is easy to measure and perhaps not the most important things to measure. It is a direct result of political decisions that all teachers and schools must obviously relate to. At the same time, it is important to point out that there is no opposite relationship, but this is a complementary approach that will give us a bigger picture of knowledge.

More complex demands

Eva Alerby does not believe that today's students have less endurance or are in greater need of motivation-enhancing efforts, but that the digital society places new and more complex demands on both students and teachers.

– There are so many more information channels today that are competing for attention. There are of course very good things but also a lot of the opposite.

At the time of writing, the world is plagued by Covid-19 and many students have or will later switch to distance education. A form of study that opens up entirely new opportunities but also requires a greater degree of discipline among students.

– In sparsely populated areas, it is not always possible to recruit teachers for all subjects and then distance education is an accessible route. But as technology evolves, we need to stop and reflect on ethical and relational issues, and we also need to think about what human contact means in teaching.