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Is Your Teen Unmotivated at School? That Might Change

Robert Preidt
HealthDay News

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THURSDAY, March 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- If your teen seems disinterested in school, new research suggests there's a good chance that things will get better over time.

"Our results point to a more hopeful picture for students who start out with lower levels of motivation," said study senior author Kui Xie, a professor of educational studies at Ohio State University in Columbus

The study included 1,670 students at 11 public high schools in central and northeastern Ohio who were followed for two years. They were in grades 9 to 11 at the start of the study.

Overall, the students' motivation to learn improved during the study period. For example, the percentage of students who were self-motivated to learn rose from 8% in the first year to over 11% in the second year.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students who had no motivation to do well in school fell from nearly 3% in the first year to about 2% in the second year, according to the study published online recently in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

One reason why there was a general positive shift in terms of motivation "may be simply because they're a year older and more developmentally mature," Xie said in a university news release.

Two other factors associated with higher levels of motivation included prior academic achievement and what the researchers called "school belongingness."

"This may be one area where we can help students become more motivated," Xie said. "Belongingness is something schools can change. They can find ways to help students feel like they are part of the school community."

This and a previous study by the same research team suggest that schools should routinely assess students' motivation to identify those most at risk for dropping out or underperforming.

Schools can create personalized intervention programs that target students based on their motivational profile, according to Xie.

"We need to tailor the motivation strategies to specific profiles," he said. "There is no one universal strategy that will work for all groups."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on teens and school.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, March 1, 2021

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