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PSIII PROFESSIONAL INQUIRY

PROJECT

Student Motivation And Readiness At The Junior


High Level

By: Robyn Wallace and Marco DAversa

Spring 2015

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Introduction
Grade nine can be a difficult year for students for multiple reasons. For some,
Junior High feels to be finished or that they have matured beyond the rest of the school.
The relationship between this feeling and motivation is very apparent in students ranging
from twelve to fifteen years old. Another milestone that occurs in Junior High is the
transitioning from grade nine to grade ten. This is a major stepping-stone into becoming
young adults.
For one of the purposes of this project, we have decided to focus on the students
transition into High School and how motivation during this grade can affect their learning
process. It is through the students perception of their readiness that we as teachers, can
provide insight into steps that may help make the transition as smooth as possible and
lead to their future successes. Students that struggle in Middle School may find even
more difficulties in High School. Their difficulties with schoolwork can be combined
with the stress of receiving their high school class recommendations in February. This
seems to cause a decline in some students, as they figure their future education has been
set. In Samuel W Shaw, a decrease can be seen in both students recommended to 10-1
classes and those who have been recommended to 10-2 and lower (based on teacher
discussion). Students who have been put in 10-1 seem to think that they no longer need to
put in the effort and students put in 10-2 appear to give up, not knowing that
recommendations can change from February to May. With this project we are hoping to
provide insight to decrease students failing in their grade ten year as well as finding
strategies that may help students transition with regards to social, academic and
motivational aspects.

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Another aspect that our project looked into is the motivation that students feel,
with regards to the classes that they attend each day. We, as pre-service teachers, have
learnt in every class that each student is different and will learn in different ways and
rates. However, there are certain aspects that may help most students become more
invested in their schoolwork. There are some students that will go above and beyond in
their assignments while there are others that are content with the bare minimum. We have
asked why this is. The student and the student themselves are the ones that are
responsible for their learning. With this project, we hope that we can use our students
insight to find what increases and decreases student motivation so that it can help build
our toolbox as future educators.
Process
Through this project we surveyed and interviewed students both in their core
subject and physical education in how they stay motived and transition to High School.
The first step we took was to hand out a survey to a set of classes. Miss Wallace surveyed
her thirty-five-person grade nine class at Samuel W. Shaw Middle School and Mr.
DAversas homeroom of twenty-five grade nine students were surveyed at St. Brigid
School. The survey asked both questions about motivation regarding their classes or
assignments currently and also questions regarding their transition into High School. The
next step we took was to interview a few students in order to gain more insight into their
personal feelings toward motivation in the classroom and their transition into High
School.
The survey results were carefully looked at; as we are aware students can
exaggerate their responses.

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Survey Results
The following questions listed below were asked in both sets of surveys given to
the students at Samuel W. Shaw Middle School and St. Brigid School. The answers listed
below each question were the most popular responses to the questions.
1. Is student interest taking into account when doing a project?

Yes, it gives me more motivation when our interest is taken into consideration.

Yes, by taking our choice into consideration and giving us options.

I am more interested in the project when our interest is taken into account.

More motivation

2. What subjects motivate you the most?

Students seemed to like the creativity and discussions

The freedom of expressing their ideas

Coming up with new ideas and using different medias to express them

The ones that are most relatable to the world

Gym as it helps with fitness and is different than other classes

3. What increases work ethic in the subjects you are unmotivated in?

More hands on activities

Visual demonstrations

Not challenged enough

More interactive

Math seemed to be the most challenging subjects for most students

When teachers relate curriculum to real life examples or examples that can be
related to by students

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Clarity in assignments and work

4. Do you prefer group work or individual work? State your reasons to why you prefer
one to the other?

Individually since they can apply their own ideas

Group work can help individuals learn the topic better

Individual because they have their own ideas and finish their work on their own
time

Group work because they can pool their ideas together

Group work because you hear other peoples thoughts

The student can learn from their peers perspective and learn a new/easier way.

A student preferred to work by themselves, but would appreciate planning time


with a partner or group

Individual you can ask the teacher for help and group work you can ask your
peers

Individual work is easier to stay focused

5. Do you feel comfortable to talk to your teachers about assignments/classroom


activities?

Depends on the teacher

It is easier one-on-one but not in front of the class

Depends on the assignment

Classroom activities yes; assignments no

6. Give 3 points that would help you increase your work ethic in the classroom.

Discussion at the end, list of the most important points of that lesson

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More hands on work, less work sheets

Ask more questions

Relate subject to real life

More interaction

Slower pace lessons

More creative work

7. Do you feel prepared going into grade 10?

Students dont feel prepared for the fast pace of high school

Most feel prepared and are excited

Some are scared since they still dont understand concepts

Most feel they are finished with Junior High

See High School as the next step

Want to be treated like an adult more so feel ready for High School

Have friends in High School already that will help them out

8. What are some suggestions or concerns you would like your school/teacher to be
aware of to help the transition smoother?

More class discussion on what the students should expect

Start exhibiting grade 10 actions in grade 9

Be harder on the class about turning in assignments

Demonstrate how a high school lesson would run

Show more examples

Most teachers have done a really good job

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9. What are your expectations for grade 10?

Lots of homework

Bigger classes

To work well during class time

Have to be active and ask questions so they dont get lost and left behind

Have to be better at time management

Faster paced

More effort needed

That it will be an exciting experience

Stressful at first but that they will find their way

Meet new people

Bigger school and more things to participate in (clubs, teams, etc.)

More freedom

Being treated like an adult

Parties

Getting closer to university and graduating

10. What are some aspects of your own motivation you need to change in order to
increase your success in High School?

Improving time management

Say more and be more in engaged during class time

Get in the habit of doing homework

Enjoy high school and try to manage the stress level

To put more effort into their work

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To be less shy

Ask more questions and pay more attention

To be treated like High School students now

More responsibility

More maturity

Interview Results
The second part of our process was to interview a few students from our classes in
order to gain more insight into how the students feel with regards to motivation and
transition. At St. Brigid School, Mr. DAversa interviewed two girls and two boys from
his homeroom. Ms. Wallace interviewed three girls and three boys at Samuel W. Shaw
Middle School. The following quotes were taken from the interviews in order to better
exemplify the mindset of his students regarding the topic.
Motivation With Assignments/Schoolwork:

I am motivated to complete assignments by receiving a good grade.

I am motivated to complete assignments by making my parents proud.

I am motivated to complete assignments by making myself proud.

I understand that grade nine is a stepping stone for High School. I know I need to
complete this assignments in order to set up myself for success in grade ten.

Grades motivate me as they help my future.

More hands on helps to motivate me to complete my work.

My family and grades motivate me to complete class work.

I get motivated when teachers are excited and energetic while teaching the
lesson.

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I find motivation by looking for enjoyment in the assignment. Example in math


finding the answer is motivating and in social understanding the concept and
relating to the real world helps.

I find motivation by being connected to the assignment or project.

What Doesnt Motivate Students In Class:

Giving reading comprehension homework lowers my motivation and confidence


to complete the assignment.

I want less homework and more things to be done during class.

When the teacher is too strict with assignments but doesn't explain how they
want it done really takes away my motivation to complete it.

I hate when a teacher just tells us to take down the notes without going into any
explanation or lecture. It is just empty words if there is no meaning.

It distracts me more when a teacher says you cannot talk when working on
assignments. Total silence doesnt seem better than getting different ideas and
opinions from others.

When the lesson is to fast, or not enough time is giving along with inconsistent
timelines.

I find lectures boring and unmotivating.

During class discussions where there is minimal engagement is hard to stay


motivated in.

I lose motivation when teachers chase me down for my work. I prefer the
responsibility of handing it in myself.

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Clutter and noise distract me while group work compatibility can cause me to
lose motivation.

When teachers dont consider my opinion, but instead enforce their way.

What Does Motivate Students In Class:

Interaction and talking helps me a lot

Clarity and structure makes it easier to complete assignments.

Being treated with more responsibility like an adult will allow me to step up and
be a leader more than being treated like a kid.

Having a lot of options to complete an assignment allows me to be more


creative.

I really enjoy the writing so anything that has to do with writing has me
motivated.

Class discussions so I can hear what other people are thinking.

Where I get to be creative with the assignment and have some of my own ideas.

When I feel supported and encouraged.

When I get an understanding of the world.

Creativity

Do You Feel Prepared Going Into High School?:

Yes, I feel prepared because the teachers and Ms. Taylor (St. Brigid counsellor)
has really helped us with different activities in order to learn how to pick classes
and plan for the future.

Yes, I am ready to be treated as an adult and feel that I am done with the Junior
High level.

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Yes because Mr. DAversa held great health classes where he explained the
transition into High School in a way that relates to us since he is young.

I feel the health classes this year have been mostly geared to help us find success
next year.

I have a lot of friends in High School who will help me out if I need it next
year.

There is nothing else that St. Brigid can do, it is up to me now.

I am ready to move on and get closer to finish school.

Yes, extra information from the teachers has been given to help prepare us.
Change is a good thing.

I dont feel prepared, I know I have an issue with paying attention.

Yes, aspect of not being chased down has helped. I already know I am going to
have a problem with the increase in the work load.

I have friends in grade ten that have really helped me feel prepared heading into
High School.

I am not sure what to expect, but I feel that guidance has been given.

What Do You Think Will Be The Biggest Adjustment In High School:

The workload will be bigger, I feel that might give me the most trouble.

How hard the classes will be.

Each student responded with this I have no social concerns in High School, I
should have no trouble making new friends and meeting new people.

Essays will give me the most trouble.

My friends tell me that final exams are stressful so probably that.

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How my teachers will be.

Workload!

Longer period times. Going from 49 minutes to almost an hour and a half.

The difference in studying from grade 9 concepts to grade 10 concepts.

Social grouping and leaving friends that you know.

More people means more drama.

Workload and tests.

What Are You Looking Forward To The Most In High School:

Being treated like an adult.

Meeting new people, seeing the same faces every day for three years can be
boring.

High School parties.

Getting closer to university.

Finding what I would like to do for the rest of my life.

New options and the variety for classes.

Option choices.

Opportunities, clubs, sports. The grand scale of it all.

Responsibility.

Branching off towards my future, looking forward to maturity and


responsibility.

A chance to explore more into my future.

12

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Observations
Grade nine can be a difficult time for students. Not only is it their last year at the
school that they have grown up in, but they must now start to understand what it is like to
become a young adult. However, we found that our students were willing to learn and
accept their new roles as young adults.
With regards to the motivation aspect of our project, we found that our grade nine
students have a good understanding of what they need to do and/or be given in order to
succeed. Students from both schools felt more motivated to complete and finish projects
when their interests were taken into account and that they were given multiple options to
complete a project or assignment. This allows for more creativity, which in turn allows
students to become more invested in a project. Mr. DAversa found this to be very
interesting because it shows an enhanced maturity level and a university like mindset
when it comes to assignments. Miss. Wallace used this when it came to any planning for
humanities. Since the class is already cross-curricular it was easier to provide students
with multiple varieties to express their knowledge both in group and individual work.
Clarity was mentioned a few times. If the assignment is not explained with good structure
than the student feels more confused and less enthusiastic to complete the assignment.
Miss. Wallace learned a lot from this throughout her practicum experience. Even with
lessons planned out, sometimes things that seemed obvious to her were unclear to her
students. Another observation was that students found having interaction or socializing to
be very beneficial and could motivate themselves to complete assignments. However, the
biggest motivation found was extrinsic motivation. Students wanted to complete their
assignments in order to receive a good grade, which will lead into better

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recommendations for High School. Even though some students did mention some
intrinsic motivation played a part in their motivation, receiving the external reward at the
end dominated most answers in the survey.
With regards to the transition aspect of our project, we found that the students felt
prepared with going into high school. At St. Brigid School, Mr. DAversa had a chance to
work with the school counselor (acts as the health teacher) in order to help students
prepare for High School. He found this to be extremely beneficial because the health
class can act as a way for students to complete lessons and assignments pertaining to their
transition into grade ten. In a way, this helps students prepare while also completing the
curriculum for the actual class. A big observation made was that students felt that they
were done or too mature for Junior High and were ready to make the next step into High
School. The students want to have more responsibility and be treated as an adult. In this
way, they are motivated to become young adults and accept the enhanced responsibility
that comes with it. Miss Wallace has sat in on weekly grade nine team meetings where
High School transition is a hot topic. Teachers are very aware of what students need to
know and hear before transitioning but wondered if students opinion had ever been taken
into account. Another observation was that students understood the adjustments that need
to be made for next year and they have very accurate perceptions of what changes they
will see in grade ten. Overall, the grade nine students showed great maturity and a
willingness to learn and prepare themselves for the next step in their academic journey.

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Conclusion
Motivation in the classroom and the gymnasium are very different. Through
having two different perspectives, classes and school boards we were able to get a greater
understanding of how grade 9 students see themselves at such a vital age. It is a unique
transition that our grade nine students face in the upcoming year. However, as teachers
we are there to help make this transition as smooth as possible. From a teachers point a
view not only did this project help us gain knowledge about our students, but knowing
that students in another school feel very much the same. This knowledge can be used to
not only better our future career as teachers, but this survey can be used every year in our
future classrooms to help improve our teaching so our students increase their passion for
learning.