Creating Motivated College students
Going to college instead of pursuing other endeavors is one of the biggest decisions that a student will make in their lives up to that point. Once they are in college, however, parents often feel challenged to ensure that their children are doing well, that all of their needs are taken care of and that they are motivated to do well while they are there because parents understand how important college is to the next phases of their children’s lives. Whether they have been to college or not, most parents understand that their children need to be motivated to get good grades and maintain a high GPA so that they can access more potential opportunities while they are in college and then after they graduate. What parents do not seem to understand, however, is that the majority of what they can do to motivate their child to do well in college takes place long before the student sits in their first college class. Motivating their child to do well is the result of the focus given to education while growing up, and the development of a high level of self-efficacy which encourages the student to become a self-regulated learner, allowing them to more easily adapt to the rigors of a college environment. The kind of support that encourages the development of these characteristics is indicative of the kind of support network that invested parents provide which serves as one of the strongest ways that students remain motivated to succeed while they are in college. In order to better understand how this is the best way for parents to motivate their children while they are in college it is necessary to define self-efficacy and self-regulated learning. Bandura one of the pioneer and major proponents of self-efficacy theory, defines self-efficacy as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 3) Put more simply, self-efficacy refers to one’s personal beliefs that they are capable of mastering a certain set of material, achieving a desired outcome or meeting some other goal. The higher that a student’s level of self-efficacy is, the better able they are to face challenging material in school and master it. Conversely, the lower a student’s self-efficacy, the less willing they are to even look at material they consider to be challenging or advanced, and the less motivated they are to continue through school. As Bandura argues, self-efficacy is about agency, and “if people believe that they have no power to produce results, they will not attempt to make things happen” (4). Bandura points out that those individuals who spend the most time with the child have the greatest effect on their level of self-efficacy. This especially includes parents but also teachers, and other educators who spend time with the student, because these are the people who reinforce certain behaviors. The parents who continue to motivate their child to keep trying until they get it right is working to develop a higher level of self-efficacy in that student, and that is what motivates them to continue trying to succeed in college when they find themselves stuck on challenging material. Kirschner describes self-regulated learning as learning that is guided by higher level thought patterns, strategic action, and motivation to learn (194). Self-regulated learners, because they are internally motivated, have taken the time to be more aware of their academic strengths and weaknesses and are well prepared to overcome the obstacles and challenges that they find in their way. Self-regulated learners tend to have a high sense of self-efficacy, and are more likely to find success in and beyond the academic environment. This motivation starts in the home, with dedicated and invested parents who build up a support network that leaves the child unafraid to try new things and embrace the difficulty of learning new material. What Kirschner argues is that no matter how...
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