The synergy of motivation and challenge - a balancing act

Phil O'Regan, Head of Secondary School

Phil O'Regan, Head of Secondary School

A consistent theme I see in students at the outset of each year is a desire and a willingness to do their best ? for some to start afresh, for others to continue with the behaviours and habits that have served them well in their learning and, for a few, to apply new dispositions to their learning.

Belief and will are powerful vehicles in assisting students to achieve their goals. We see it in varying degrees amongst students and know each trait can be amplified through the home and school setting.

The research of Carol Dweck is well recognised in the education setting for its message ? believing that you can improve, fixed and growth mindsets (Mindset ? TED talk) ? and when read together with the work of Angela Lee Duckworth (Grit ? TED talk), which focuses on the power of passion and perseverance, we are reminded of the potential of each child in all of our classrooms. Unlocking this potential can prove quite tricky, rather than instituting universal solutions, we are challenged to unearth the motivation, self-belief and purpose each child brings with them to Radford. We do this through fostering respectful relationships and designing experiences which speak to the interests and passions of students.

Professor Andrew Martin of the University of Sydney offers strategies for parents and educators to recognise and The Learning Pitboost motivation levels by focusing on: self-belief, learning focus, persistence, study management, and planning (motivating students to learn). In the prelude to school commencing Secondary School teachers took part in a learning workshop with Deb Masters, who challenged the staff to construct moments where students wrestle with knowledge and spend time in the ?learning pit? (James Nottingham); a learning focus promoting and enhancing challenge and inquiry.

This concept is not new to teaching, where each day we construct ?pit experiences? for students within our courses and school experiences. We appreciate that struggling with knowledge, then learning to construct new meaning and reflecting on this through application to new contexts consolidates knowledge, though equally importantly develops skills for meeting cognitive conflict in future struggles.

Beyond the classroom, Year 7 Camp is an ideal showcase for instituting pit experiences. Last week I saw students struggle and overcome physical challenge, social and emotional unease and cope with more weather seasons than should be seen in a week (some photos below). The experience of sharing tents, cabins, activities, conversations and meals with people unknown to you can be daunting and a good deal of uncertainty can prevail. The Tutors and group leaders skilfully navigated this space and it was once again delightful to see how so many students made new friendships and relationships with peers inside and out of their Year 7 Tutor groups.

As we commence the year I remind you the College has also secured access for students and parents to a study skills website (username: radfordcollege / password: 95success) which provides useful strategies and ideas to assist with supporting your child as they prepare for the year ahead. In particular, there is a highly useful section focusing on working at home, examining the key areas of: organisation, time management, workload, distractions, procrastination, balance and stress.

In building on our theme of connections this year I am pleased to announce the launch of the Inter-House Lunch Challenge, a voluntary activities program across the Secondary School. Students across year groups and within their Houses will battle it out in STEM and Master Chef challenges, spelling bees, Theatresports and a number of sports activities throughout the year.

Continuing to develop new relationships with peers within the House and outside of the immediate friendship group is important to maintaining a feeling of connection and positive self-esteem. We offer so many vehicles for this at the College through the Performing and Creative Arts, Service, Sports, outdoor education and clubs experiences and I encourage your child to engage whole heartedly as the benefits can be life changing.

Some photos from Year 7 Camp

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