Successful Teachers Develop Academic Momentum with Reluctant StudentsReport as inadecuate

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Middle School Journal (J1), v39 n5 p4-12 May 2008

In a series of investigations, the author and his colleagues have examined ways that students who once did poorly in school made progress and how their teachers nurtured their accomplishments. They have chronicled ways that successful teachers learned to understand why students are reluctant to do their work, how to help them think through their choices, and how to create classroom learning communities. These practices create academic momentum. In the physical sciences, momentum is a strength or force that keeps growing. Athletes and coaches talk of momentum in sports. Advertisers try to create momentum for new products. Politicians try to strengthen momentum for candidates and ideas. In a school setting, momentum is the strength of a student's engagement with learning activities. Students with strong academic momentum approach new assignments with confidence. Based on previous experiences with similar tasks, they know they are likely to do well. If a task proves to be difficult, they know they have a repertoire of skills and strategies they can employ. Students with little academic momentum show little confidence and doubt their ability to do well. In some cases, they have internalized a sense of inadequacy that makes it very difficult to invest effort on assignments. To observers, they may appear unmotivated, turned off, or disconnected. In their studies, successful teachers have encouraged momentum with reluctant students in similar ways. This article describes these central dynamics and presents a case study to illustrate how one middle school team put research into practice. These insights suggest ways for other teachers and administrators to enhance their efforts to engage reluctant students more productively. (Contains 2 figures.)

Descriptors: Assignments, Student Motivation, Teaching Methods, Case Studies, Academic Achievement, Learning Activities, Teacher Effectiveness, Middle Schools, Middle School Students, Adolescents, Self Efficacy

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Author: Strahan, David


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