High student engagement and motivation result in reduced dropouts and higher students' success (Blank, 1997; Dev, 1997; Kushman, 2000; Woods, 1995; all in Brewster & Fager, 2000). However, keeping students interested and motivated is challenging. Parents and teachers who both play a crucial role in cultivating students' motivation to learn should collaborate with each other in order to achieve this. The school should see each child as being a special gifted individual and the staff and parents are motivated to ride on a journey towards life- long personal growth and development.
How can parents assist in the learning process?
Grolnick and Ryan (1989) reflect upon the correlation between parent styles and the child's self- regulation and competence which are also related to children's behavioral adjustment. They found that parental control seems to be particularly relevant to the development of self-regulation. Grolnick and Ryan (1989) distinguish between 'Autonomy support' (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989, p.144) (parents' use of techniques to encourage independent achievement through punitive disciplinary techniques â€¦ or controlling rewards) and 'Structure' (parents' provision of 'clear and consistent guidelines, expectations, and rules for child behaviors' (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989, p.144)). Results of Grolnick and Ryan's study show a correlation between 'autonomy support, self-regulation and competence'. The study also reflected that while 'structure within the home may guard against a sense of "helplessness" [â€¦] it would not necessarily predict self-regulation, because a high degree of structure could be either supportive or undermining of autonomy.' (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989, p.) Grolnick and Ryan also hypothesise that parent involvement
Grolnick and Ryan (1989) also hypothesize that parent involvement 'provide[s] the emotional resources essential to a sense of self-direction and confidence as well as more concrete resources that could aid in achievement' (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989). The results of the study conducted by Grolnick and Ryan (1989) indicate two possible interpretations. One is that parents who foster autonomy in their children, better prepare them 'for an educational environment that requires independent mastery and self-regulation' and an alternative interpretation is that children with 'little autonomous self-regulation "pull" for external control and punitiveness from their parents while those who are more independent make the provision of autonomy support more rewarding and effective' (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989).
How can a teacher assist the students' parents?
Brewster and Fager (2000) suggest that parents and teachers should discuss how they can help the children best. The teacher should develop and discuss a homework policy with students and parents, including expectations and possibly the parents' role in homework. Teacher's expectations of parents should be realistic, for instance considering long work hours. Students need a good study environment at home, well-lit and quiet, and should have a specific time for homework each day. Homework should not be pitted against other activities they enjoy; they may rush their homework in order to do them. High expectations are good, but should not be so high that children work to avoid disapproval rather than to improve. Too much stress on good achievement makes them strive to impress or feel they are failures (Renchler, 1992). The threat of failure only motivates them if it is not too great. If they feel failure is inevitable, they will try to cover up their failure with misbehavior. From early on we should attribute failure to lack of effort not ability, indicating failure as an opportunity to improve, a natural part of 'learning and life' (Renchler, 1992, p.11).
Strategies for increasing motivation
Parenting styles which facilitate student's motivation should also be assisted by teachers in the classroom. There are several ways in which teachers may motivate their students to learn. These include 'making positive changes to the learning environment', 'fostering a sense of community in' class, 'enhancing interest of classroom activities, responding to individual learning challenges, and building in additional outcomes/pay-offs for learning' (Wright, 2002). Sternberg and Lubart sustain that to influence student motivation, educators need to build on both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation because the distinction between the two is 'too simple to reflect the many complex and interrelated factors that influence motivation' (Brewster & Fager, 2000, p. 9). Teachers should provide students with clear, consistent expectations for performance and behaviour (Skinner & Belmont, 1991 in Brewster & Fager, 2000), and give clear, constructive feedback once students complete tasks (Strong et al, 1995 in Brewster & Fager, 2000). Students are also more motivated if the teacher is warm, caring, and shares personal experiences and mistakes with her class.
Apart from developing ways to involve parents (McCombs & Whisler, 1997 in Brewster & Fager, 2000), teachers must also arouse students' curiosity through mystery approaches (Strong, Silver and Robinson, 1995 in Brewster & Fager, 2000) and by using visuals in class that will keep students interested and make tasks more memorable. Teachers should also assign projects that allow students to share their knowledge with others in group or pair work (Strong, Silver & Robinson, 1995 in Brewster & Fager, 2000). Students need homework that actively engages them by building on their interests and prior knowledge. To engage the students, teachers need to develop activities that address the basic psychological and intellectual needs of the students (Ames, 1992; Anderman & Midgley, 1998; Strong et al, 1995; all in Brewster & Fager, 2000). Students need work that helps them feel competent, allows them to connect with others and gives them opportunities for autonomy, originality and self-expression (Anderman & Midgley, 1998; Strong et al, 1995; all in Brewster & Fager, 2000).
The outcomes of teacher- parent collaboration
Renchler (1992) explain the fact that a student's motivation and academic success can be achieved through the work of the principal, teachers, as well as parents which create experiences that help each student obtain the necessary knowledge in a pleasant and fun way. This will therefore help in increasing the students' enthusiasm and motivation for learning (Renchler, 1992). Ms. McBride, a teacher at Payette Primary School 'readily acknowledges that she could never do such in-depth studies in her classroom, without the assistance of many parents' (Brewster & Fager, 2000, p.38). This teacher tries her best to keep constant communication with the parents, through the use of postcards and phone calls, as in this way, the parents are also involved in the learning process (Brewster & Fager, 2000).
Teachers and parents are 'educational managers', and both 'bear some of the responsibility for helping students generate a feeling of value and reward when they engage in and complete academic work.' (Renchler, 1992, p.17)