Does motivation matter?

Understanding your child’s motivators

This week’s blog has been guest written by Alexandra Ford. Meta Prep Teacher

Have you ever wondered what REALLY motivates your child? Why do they do certain things or react in a particular way? Perhaps you have two children and can’t work out why they are so differently motivated. Finding out a child’s motivators is fundamental to their happiness and educational success, particularly for the 11+.

What is motivation? 

Motivation drives our behaviour. It is not a conscious decision, but comes from the underlying need for achievement, affiliation or influence. It is linked to our self-concept, personal beliefs, social expectations and personality traits. It is the root of our behaviour,  Spencer and Spencer’s metaphor of an iceberg demonstrates this, our motives lie beneath the surface.

Motivation is the most misunderstood aspect of improving outcomes. To allow a child to fulfil their potential is a fine balancing act between achieving high levels of performance whilst ensuring the child is happy and stimulated. Understanding their intrinsic motivation ensures the learning experience is tailored, resulting in success.”

Arabella Northey, Headteacher of Meta Prep

What are motivators? 

So what motivates us to act? We use motivators to convince children, other people and ourselves to do things all the time – the old carrot and stick approach: “If you clean your room, you can have a sweetie.” “If you don’t do your homework, you won’t get any screen time.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that the most basic motivators are the physiological needs: food, water, warmth, rest. As each motivation level is met, a person will be able to move up the ladder. At the bottom, motivation is focused on our body, solely fixed on keeping us alive. 

Wider research about motivation has produced different structures and categories of motivators. Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors found eight motivators while the Enneagram has nine, organised into the “Head Types”, the “Heart Types”, and the “Body Types”. These models do not have a hierarchy but a series of motivators or drivers. 

The Motivational Map™ used at Meta Prep, developed by James Sale, draws on Maslow, Schein and the Enneagram. It comprises 3 cluster areas: Relationships, Achievement and Growth; each containing 3 motivators. By asking simple, yet pertinent questions, our Motivation Maps provide teachers, parents and pupils with “whole child” insight, revealing a framework for goal-setting and self-reflection, to support 11+ preparation.

Sale, J. (2015), Mapping Motivation: Unlocking the Key to Employee Energy and Engagement. Gower Publishing

There are hundreds of different profiles: a child who might be particularly motivated by relationships thrives on friendships. Loyalty and support systems of friends and teachers makes them feel secure and allows them to flourish with a high level of stability. And then there are the achievement focused who are far more data driven and analytical. They thrive on knowledge and like to be recognised for that quality as they find it highly motivating.

Understanding motivators 

Identifying our key motivators is the starting point to creating the right ‘growing conditions’ for a child to thrive and progress, in the 11+ and beyond. Through understanding and using these motivators in lessons and in life, we can increase attention and interest in learning, creating greater confidence and progress. We can tap into our passions, flourish as individuals and ultimately be more positive, productive members of society. 

Oh, and by identifying individual motivations with those preparing for the 11+, the chances of them seeing the exams and interviews as an enjoyable challenge rather than a parent-enforced chore is a huge plus point. 

Motivation does matter!!

The map takes the form of a 10-15 minute online questionnaire, which should be answered on gut instinct. This is entirely child-led and generates three reports which look at the current intrinsic motivation of the child, focusing on relationships, achievement and growth within their personal development.

Meta Prep is the complete online interactive solution for 11+ success for Years 4 & 5. With small groups and direct access to a Head teacher, Meta Prep partners with parents for selective senior school entry. Weaving fun, instilling key skills and learning behaviours to lift exam scores. At Meta Prep, we really want to ensure that it is a fun and enriching experience built on a strong foundation of learning principles. The goal is to get children thinking deeply, equipping them with a ‘metacognitive’ toolkit so that they understand how to learn and are set for life, able to sail through the 11+ and onto their next challenge with confidence.