2. Increasing student and teacher motivation
Issues of student motivation and the effects of low motivation can be used to foretell the effects on the dropout phenomenon. Students who do not find success in school, tend to be unmotivated and will not participate in school activities; when given the opportunity these students choose to leave school and dropout. Never before has it been so critical that leaders in northern and Native schools make efforts to improve student and teacher motivation. Renchler (1992) stresses that improving needed motivation starts with actions and behaviours from the school leader. There is an overwhelming amount of literature that indicates that minority students underachieve due to a lack of motivation. Despite this, a study by Rindone (1988) on Navajo Indians reveals that most Native students do want to do well in school. According to Rindone (1988), family and parents are able to encourage children to succeed. However, the job of motivating students to succeed must not be left solely to the family circle. Leaders can do a lot to help motivate students to complete their educational goals.
Levin (1994) writes that to improve educational productivity leaders must begin by putting students at the centre of creating educational outcomes. The factory analogy of education is not appropriate in the world of technology and advancements; schooling is not something that can be done to students (Levin, 1994). One could go further to state that the factory analogy has never been appropriate for Inuit youth because it is impossible to force education on students whose decision to attend school is almost entirely up to them. (The NWT Education Act has provisions to charge parents who do not send to school children who are under sixteen years old however, for a myriad of reasons, parents are rarely ever charged.) Once students feel treated like objects, they tend to drop out of school. Levin (1994) confirms this by stating:
Students must do the learning; there is no way around this fact. . . . Education is not something we do to people, but something that people do for themselves - assisted, we hope, by the efforts of teachers. (p.759).
The implication of this is clear; if students are responsible for their own learning then their motivation is absolutely critical (Levin, 1994).
Leaders can help increase motivation in a number of ways. They can promote strategies that treat students as capable persons, capitalise on their previous knowledge and get students involved in setting personal goals and determining best methods of learning (Levin, 1994). Inuit students are used to a great deal of autonomy at home (Condon, 1988) and for schools to be accepted Inuit students need to have a "significant influence (which is not to say total control) over what they study, how they study and when they study" (Levin, 1994, p. 760). Students will want to come to school if they feel that what they are learning relates to their personal needs and interests. These types of personal connections to learning is similar to the way Inuit youth were motivated to learn life skills by elders and family.
Renchler (1992) makes a link between motivation levels and the actions of school administrators; this link is often overlooked in research which only centres on what happens in the classroom. Oftentimes there is a lack of motivation from teachers and students. As a result, there is rapid teacher turnover and student dropout is very high. Commitment to education is absent and according to Renchler (1992) there is much that school administrators and school leaders can do to help reduce the problem.
School leaders can foster student motivation by creating a positive school culture; student motivation can be generated by using activities, statements of goals, behaviour codes, rituals, and symbols and messages (Renchler, 1992). The expectations and attitudes towards education can be shaped by the schools culture; school leaders who effectively manage to create an optimum school climate can boost student and teacher motivation thus impacting their learning (Renchler, 1992).
According to Renchler (1992), optimum school climate is created by:
These programs and policies allow students and teachers to develop intrinsic motivation so that they are more connected with their personal learning and gain ownership in the learning process. By restructuring schools in such a way, student motivation and success can be increased which can directly impact the rate of dropout.
Renchler (1992) goes further to investigate how a schools organizational structure can influence levels of student motivation. For many years, teachers have been using reward systems that work to increase extrinsic motivation. However, more energy needs to be made to foster intrinsic motivation: "Challenging but fair task assignments, the use of positive classroom language, mastery-based evaluation systems, and cooperative learning structures are among the methods" (Renchler, 1992, online) that can maximize intrinsic motivation.
According to Renchler (1992), there is a connection between the school leaders motivational level and the level of motivation that exists among the students. "Personal motivation on the part of the principal can translate into motivation among students and staff through the functioning of goals" (Renchler, 1992, online). A leader who has goals that are personally valued are central to the leaders motivation and is a stimulus for action (Renchler, 1992).
Developing a standard program to change student motivation is impossible because of the complexities contributing to low student motivation. Renchler (1992) suggests other ways which leaders can make valuable changes in student motivation. Leaders need to analyze the ways that motivation works in their own lives and develop a way to communicate it to others in the school. Leaders can use non-educational settings like games and sports to demonstrate the important role of motivation. Leaders need to reward and recognize all types of success to show students that success is important. By developing and participating in workshops that highlight motivation, leaders can bring more learning to staff members. Parents need also to be involved in the discussion of motivation and leaders can help by sharing information and giving them guidance in fostering motivation in their children. Leaders need to model lifelong learning and show that learning can be fulfilling for its own sake (Renchler, 1992). In this way, teacher learning filters down to student learning.
Renchler (1992) forces leaders to reflect on personal motivation and analyze how their motivational levels can affect students. It is interesting to see connections between restructuring and motivation. Frequently, low student motivation is considered the students problem and detached from the school and the school administration. Renchler (1992) expands this perspective to include other factors normally overlooked. One begins to realize how important personal motivation and school culture is to student motivation. More of this type of analysis needs to be discussed when formulating restructuring plans and developing school goals and staff expectations.
Summary: link to Factors Leading to Dropout for Inuit Students
A lack of motivation has often been considered a contributing factor to dropout. Links have been made between the motivational levels of school leaders with the motivational levels of students. By improving the motivation of students, teachers and school leaders, schools combat the negative impact of low motivation on Inuit dropout rates. School leaders need to encourage students to become involved in their education and gain ownership in their learning. In doing so, students will increase their intrinsic motivation and will want to learn more.
Article review: Renchler, R. (1992). School leadership and student motivation.