So which button do we push?

21st April 2006 at 01:00
It is in the nature of some inquiries that they start off down one road and find some interesting avenues that were not part of the travel plan. So it has proved with the parliamentary scrutiny on pupil motivation which, in the way that travel does broaden the mind, found itself turning the spotlight on teacher motivation and school leadership. They are all inextricably linked, the committee has concluded. We agree. The more fundamental questions, however, are how exactly do they impinge on one another and what are the limitations of each on the other?

It is one thing to say that good teachers motivate pupils by the depth of their knowledge, their ability to put things across, the impact of their personality and the empathy they show with their class. It is another to point, as the committee does, to the more general leadership of the school creating a motivating atmosphere which in turn rubs off on the children.

Then there is the equally difficult problem of the demotivating factors outside the school such as the erosion of the value placed on education in recent times and the increasing polarisation between improving and "stuck"

groups. The inevitable conclusion from the committee's report is that pupil motivation is bound up with all of those things.

The inquiry, inevitably, has raised more questions than it answered.

Perhaps painting with a broad brush was its intention. There is certainly little in it that comes as much of a surprise and little with which one could disagree. But the committee, without being explicit, has possibly put its finger on the most important factor of all - having an open approach where difficulties and differences can be readily admitted. If what Alan McLean describes (page three) as the "potentially transforming recommendation" to build pupils' feedback into their teaching and learning is to bear fruit, such a collegiate approach will certainly be a sine qua non.

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