This blog series covers several ways to support high learning potential children during home learning by making it more challenging, increasing motivation or developing thinking skills. This blog is the second in a series of three and covers supporting motivation.  You can find the other parts of the series at Part 1: Making Learning More Challenging and Part 3:  Encouraging Thinking Skills.

Are you worried that your child finds their schoolwork too easy? Or that they are not motivated to try at tasks? Could this be a good opportunity for your child to learn at their own pace and to be motivated to learn deeply about something that they are interested in?

Some children need or prefer learning to be more challenging for them. Others are capable of accessing a higher level of challenge if they are steered in that direction. Home learning gives parents an opportunity to raise the level of challenge that their children have in their learning.

How to Support Motivation

As well as making learning more challenging, several other elements can greatly improve motivation for a learning task. These elements include: understanding its context, understanding its purpose both in terms of skills and knowledge, having a choice about elements of the learning, having the opportunity for a personal response to learning and having an audience for the outcome of the learning.

Understand the context – if a learner understands why they are being asked to carry out a learning task, they are much more likely to engage with it, even if some of the elements of the task are already known or seem to progress at a slow pace.  Explain to your child or support them in understanding the reason why they are learning about this topic or being asked to do this task now, including where it fits into the plan for their learning.

  • Example 1: When learning about internal angles in a triangle, this knowledge is part of the curriculum following angles, lines and polygons and is needed to progress to the next topic of quadrilateral shapes so that comparisons can be made between them.
  • Example 2: In learning about the invasion of Britain by the Romans or the building of Hadrian’s Wall, their context within a timeline of British history is important, as well as how they relate to your child’s existing knowledge and what will be studied next, e.g. the British resistance/Boudica, the Romanisation of Britain

 Understand the purpose – knowing the purpose will mean that your child will be more likely to be motivated to pay attention and persevere. Help your child to know what knowledge they will gain from the learning task, what they will be able to progress to next, what skills they will develop from the learning and how this will help them.

  • Example 1: Continuing with the example of internal angles in a triangle, this will help them to have a rounded understanding of geometry and this knowledge is used by many professionals, including engineers, architects and athletes, and is useful for map reading and home design.
  • Example 2: In the Roman invasion of Britain, learners can be supported to understand that studying this part of history helps us to understand how society, including law and government, has developed, as well as having an impact on language and culture. Skills learned will include awareness of how historians use evidence to understand the past, as well as how to draw conclusions from that evidence and how to consider the pros and cons of different forms of government.

Personal response to learning – relating learning to our own lives is an important factor in motivation. If the opportunity isn’t already there in the learning task, you can support your child by asking what the learning meant to them, how this knowledge or the skills learnt are used in everyday life or what they think about some of the issues raised by it.

  • Example 1: Again, using the angles topic, ask how your child might use this knowledge in a hobby, when out for a walk or on holiday.
  • Example 2: In the Romans example, reflect on what impact this period had on today’s society and your child’s life. Even if the answer is initially that it has no impact, this gives an opportunity for reflection and discussion about how the world could have progressed in quite the same way without it.

 Audience for learning outcomes – Many learners respond well to having an ‘audience’ for the outcomes of their learning, beyond their teacher, as this motivates them to do a good job and, as a result, raises the quality of the outcome. If your child is struggling with motivation, encouraging another audience (other than the teacher) for their learning, could help. Even being prepared to listen if your child wants to discuss their learning or look at the work if they want to show you an outcome will be supportive. For example, working on an art piece that will be on display in a public space (even an online one) will often motivate a learner to invest their energies into creating a piece that they are proud of, while making an information leaflet about safe internet usage for younger children will motivate learners to be sure of their facts and present them clearly so that they can be understood.

  • Example 1: Bringing together what has been learnt about angles in a triangle could be made into a poster for a classroom or home, or an information leaflet for younger children.
  • Example 2: Collating detailed information about a favourite aspect of Roman Britain in a YouTube video, animation or PowerPoint presentation that can be published online or on social media for others to see who want to learn about it, would be a good suggestion to motivate further learning.

Incorporating some of these into your child’s learning will allow them to understand what they are learning and why, link to other parts of their understanding and give a purpose to their efforts.

Read more about supporting motivation in high potential learners in Modern Learning Trends – Three Motivational Ideas for a Home or School Setting. To support your child in handling disappointment, read High Learning Potential Children – Handling Disappointment .