Impact Insights

Student motivation and engagement promote achievement

Lana’s High-Impact Tutoring coaches improve student motivation and engagement by prioritizing meeting students where they are.

Often, when students are struggling academically, there are issues to address that go beyond the classroom and subjects. If you wish to impact the student, you must meet them where they are. How do they feel about school, about education? Do they feel seen, like their voices are heard and respected in their classrooms? What do they wish their teachers noticed or knew about them? Dialogue in this direction begins to make the student feel “seen and heard”, which is the critical first step for student motivation and engagement. 

This was how I concluded my article last month, which introduced a new cohort of student participants in the High-Impact Tutoring (HIT) program here at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA). While the previous cohort of students consisted of 9th graders whose academic profiles had them achieving above the challenges the of the curriculum, this new cohort consists of students who are struggling academically: high attendance rates but low grades and GPAs. So yes, as I work with these students, I base all my interactions and sessions on the above statement.

If you wish to impact the student, you must meet them where they are.

With this new cohort, I am working with students who are struggling academically despite their high attendance rates. I have seen some of these students in class where their engagement and participation has been minimal at best. Furthermore, some of their teachers describe them as disruptive. I have access to their grades in all subjects, and I can see that they are all, indeed, struggling academically.

How and where to begin the right kind of dialogue with each of them that fosters engagement and motivation? Well, while it’s all about academics and grade improvement, Let’s talk about your grades,” is not the best way to start. That’s the last thing struggling students want to discuss! They already know their grades are not good and that they are failing some classes.

How do they feel about school, about education? Do they feel seen and heard in their classrooms? Why or why not? It’s amazing how much easier it becomes for them to talk about their classes and grades eventually when I take this approach. I suspect it’s because they feel seen and heard with this approach while jumping straight into a grades conversation can make them defensive and expect criticism and judgement. 

Another distinction I consider important to clarify with the students is that I am their academic coach. My role is not to replicate their teachers’ efforts in the HIT sessions. Instead, I support them in creating their path to academic success and achievement. No matter the students’ academic profile or GPA, beyond the labels of “high achieving” or “academically struggling,” all students want to feel like they are genuinely seen and heard. As their academic coach, I strive to provide the space and opportunity during the HIT sessions for this to happen. 

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