Saturday, 11 August 2018

Internal Drive Theory

I read Dr Petunia Lee's book on internal drive theory and thought it was an interesting read. The author shares useful researched methods on how to motivate a child to want to study. I was attracted to it as she mentioned that her son was not born motivated but only became so with the techniques employed.


In this post, I record some of my learning points from the book. I must add that they are from my interpretation of the book's contents and may not be what the author is trying to put across. I am also writing these points from memory, so again, what I write has been influenced by my schema of the issue at hand. Here are the points:

1) Give structured choices

The author encourages parents to give structured choices to children. For instance, the child could be asked to choose whether he wants to do maths or science first. An example given by the author was of a girl who was already scoring well but her mother wanted her to be challenged further. Dr Lee showed two math books to the girl, one easy and one more challenging. She told the girl that she could choose to do either book, but if she chose the easy one, she would still need to do the challenging one later. If she chose the challenging one, she would only need to do that one book because it was senseless to do an easier book after accomplishing the more difficult one. The girl chose the challenging book, and went on to choose the more challenging options when she was offered choices subsequently. Because the girl was the one to choose, she would not feel that she had been coerced.

2) Ensure emotional connections

Parents should continually maintain positive connections with their children. On this point, I realise that I have been encouraging my children less and less as they grow older. I need to be more purposeful in saying encouraging words to them and to be patient.

3) Build healthy and positive self-concepts

I realise that our careless words shape our children's self concept. Little An knows that she is a good dancer because we keep telling her so and her former ballet teacher also gave encouraging feedback. J knows he is good in math and is very independent in acquiring new math knowledge partly because we constantly say he is good in math and his results reinforce that concept. Similarly, he has heard that he takes a much longer time to learn Chinese, so his view of his ability to learn Chinese is bleak. I could help him improve this self-concept by giving him small successes in Chinese and then highlighting that he has the ability to succeed.

4) Give immediate and effective feedback

I have learnt to give immediate feedback as an educator, but with my own children, I have been tardy. J has been asking me to mark the many exercises he did in a 6B math workbook and I have been procrastinating. I should be more proactive.

Dr Lee also devised comprehensive marking schemes for compositions to give her son more effective feedback and to help him focus on the elements of a good essay. For example, he was rewarded when he used interesting descriptive phrases. In the same way, marks were deducted when he made careless spelling or punctuation mistakes. The marking schemes can be found in her book.

5) Focus on study process and not grades

Focussing on process rather than grades has also been my philosophy. From the school assessments, parents can help their children identify what has gone wrong in their study process and help to improve the process rather than harp on the grade. Dr Lee realised that to do well in Chinese composition, one had to memorise good essays. She acquired exemplary essays from China and motivated her son to memorise them instead of staying disappointed with his grades.

There were other interesting points mentioned, like implementing physical movements between tedious tasks and to be on the lookout for desirable behaviour and magnify that. Read her book to find out more. :)


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