Upbeat teacher can lift the kids

18th February 2005 at 00:00
The key to pupil motivation is teacher morale, one of Scotland's leading educational psychologists has told MSPs.

In a two-hour presentation to the Scottish Parliament's education committee last week, Alan McLean, area principal psychologist with Glasgow City Council, urged them to get beyond the "arid, exhaustive debate on discipline" and move on to "more sophisticated stuff" like motivation and self-discipline.

Mr McLean described the work he has done with teachers and pupils across Glasgow over the past two years on "the motivated school" and told the committee, which is holding an inquiry into pupil motivation, that he believed schools were overwhelmed by initiatives and struggling with a lack of coherence. "Motivation" could make them all hang together.

MSPs were told by Mr McLean, who has been running training programmes for teachers and pupils in Glasgow for two years and hopes to roll them out nationally: "The key to pupil motivation is teacher morale, which is the key to all this because you really need it to create a supportive classroom climate and that is what will determine self-disciplined learners."

He continued: "Teachers are working harder than ever to motivate pupils in the drive for higher achievement. But, while teachers are doing more and more to and for pupils, they can't actually motivate them in this way.

"Scottish education hasn't traditionally placed much emphasis on motivation, and pupil participation has been secured by the carrot and stick. But the best motivation is self-motivation and that is a door that can only be unlocked from within . . . So the trick is not to motivate pupils to achieve but to provide learning opportunities that are motivating."

Mr McLean told the committee pupil disengagement was "a huge challenge".

Schools would not improve attainment or achievement levels if it was not overcome.

"Traditional teaching is threatening to learners, but easy for the teacher," he said. "Today's teaching is more engaging for learners, but more challenging for the teacher. To attract learners out of their comfort zone, teachers have also to get out of their comfort zone."

Mr McLean also criticised the so-called "achievement agenda", saying it had given the high moral ground to those teachers who saw their job as teaching subjects rather than pupils.

"Rather than imposing yet more traditional teaching on the seemingly reluctant, alternative approaches should be shaped around pupils' goals and real life experiences and challenges."

Leader 22

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