Is it as simple as motivation?

Earlier this month, the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment, (PISA) report was released. Australia’s results certainly aren’t what we were hoping for. In fact, the results show that we as a nation are slipping further down the international ranks, and have been on this trajectory for the last 20 years.

Recent HSC results, however, show a different outcome. According to Sydney Morning Herald’s Jordan Baker, “an analysis of almost two decades of Higher School Certificate data contradicts the declining results among NSW's top students in global reading, maths and science tests, showing more students are achieving top results in similar HSC subjects.

Between 2001 and 2018, more students achieved band six - the highest result - in chemistry, mathematics and advanced English, according to an analysis of NSW Education Standards Authority data by Sydney University psychometrician James Tognolini.” (read the full article here:

Professor Tognolini, the director of the Sydney University's Educational Measurement and Assessment Hub, has attributed the difference in results as being directly related to student motivation.

"While people say our systems are failing, there is credible evidence that when our kids are motivated to achieve, and when teachers are focusing upon teaching to the curriculum, our students are actually doing OK."

It makes sense. Students work harder to achieve great results when it means something to them. My life experience has taught me that this isn’t unique to students! The more we have at stake, the harder we try.

The big question is: What motivates students to do well? Is it intrinsic, extrinsic, or a combination of both? Is it purely a HSC result, or are other factors at play?

In an ideal educational environment, we would be able to tap into what motivates each and every student to succeed in their learning, harness that motivation and create a learning environment that will foster, nurture and develop that motivation, so that each student can achieve success - even when they stumble. We must use the learning analytics data that is available to us, and get to know our students, talk to them and build relationships with them.


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