Motivation and engagement in children and adolescents, and the benefits of curriculum-integrated careers learning

Guest Blog Post by FutureFIT

Motivation and engagement in children and adolescents, and the benefits of curriculum-integrated careers learning

Over the past 5 years and particularly since the launch of the national careers strategy in December 2017, which forefronted the Gatsby benchmarks as the gold standard, there has been an increasing focus on the importance of curriculum-integrated careers learning in schools. We have seen an increase in the incorporation of such programmes particularly to support of the delivery of Gatsby Benchmark 4: linking curriculum learning to careers. This should be a key pillar of school curriculum development.

At the same time, various studies and literature highlight the impact that goal orientation, expectations and aspirations can have on learning. Understanding and facilitating outcomes in the development of these attributes is therefore key to teaching effectiveness. Career insights, positive industry role models and increasing understanding about the diverse range of career and employment market opportunities as an integrated part of school curriculum, linked to learning outcomes for relevance, is therefore required. This is the underpinning principle of the FutureFIT programme.

Responding to Ofsted

In May 2019, the new Ofsted Framework signalled a shift in its determinant of Quality Education, in its assertion that school Curriculum Intent should be ambitious and designed to give all learners the "knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life". The new Ofsted Framework places higher expectations on rounded student development. This is a move away from a largely singular focus on attainment and schools will increasingly be required to meet expectations in relation to ensuring students are prepared for economic, personal and social participation. Effective and impactful careers activities are well placed to support and add value in this holistic approach.

How children and adolescents learn

Understanding how children and adolescents learn is the first step to establishing a curriculum that encourages student engagement and motivation for success, as the understanding of how we learn is at the basis of effective pedagogy. Research into the learning behaviours of children and adolescents has greatly increased over the last decade. Whilst heritance of intelligence is a factor, a core understanding is that learning comes from repeating seen behaviours. For example, seeing parents brush their teeth will encourage children to do the same. Children and adolescents learn through observation and, as such, the importance of a child or adolescent’s environment plays a key role in learning behaviours. To incorporate such understanding into careers learning, students should be exposed to a variety of role models who have pursued different pathways to success through education and career development. Through seeing and hearing from these positive role models, students will be able to visualise and better understand options for their futures and make informed decisions about their approach to learning in preparation for this. Placing this in the context of their daily lived experiences in the classroom (their curriculum) enables them to see the relevance of key learning outcomes in their future career options.

Motivation in Adolescence: how to engage children in adolescence

Current literature suggests that new measures of engagement with children can better create motivation to increase effective learning. These include effectiveness of technology use and combining play with education.

In the current climate of online learning and technological advances, our reliance on the same has increased and levels of face-to-face engagement can be limited. Whilst there may be predictions of lower levels of motivation, research can suggest the opposite. Various studies suggest that incorporating technology gives a similar effectiveness of learning, and can in fact also provide a better engagement with children, possibly creating more motivation and willingness to learn.

Another consideration in further motivating students is combining play with education. As research suggests, play is a core component in child development, often teaching children in safety, socialisation, morals and identity. It should also be noted that, due to their association of fun, both play and technology promote more positive mindsets, encouraging motivation in students. It is therefore important that schools incorporate not just technology into learning but also establish a varied, fun, and engaging curriculum that encourages students to consider their future.

The impact of goal orientation on student motivation and engagement in learning:

Research suggests that goal orientation, with use of set ambitions and achievements, promotes a greater motivation amongst individuals, and helps engage in learning; the more goals that are reached and succeeded, the more motivation individuals display. Through psychological theory of self-regulation this therefore represents a self-motivated attitude and frame of mind that makes observations of positive outcomes rather than negative ones. It is therefore important that positive examples of success are demonstrated in the classroom and that we showcase role models that students can relate to when determining their own ambitions. Students should be encouraged to set goals and be given guidance and support on how to work towards these, in order to encourage academic motivation and student success.

The FutureFIT programme

FutureFIT draws on a range of research, literature, and best practices relating to effective career and education guidance; teaching; learning and assessment; character education; and development of cultural and social capitals to help students to consolidate their learning and reflect on how the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values learned at school influence their future career prospects. With goal motivation playing a key role in success and student engagement, it is important that schools encourage the consideration of future career and education opportunities throughout a student’s time at school. FutureFIT helps schools ensure that their careers learning programmes are varied and incorporate technology through bitesize video resources to provide an engaging and informative insight into the world of work and future pathways.

Learn more and download the FutureFIT information brochure here.

The FutureFIT team will be at the Schools and Academies Show in London on 27th April 2022. Come and visit us at stand C16 if you are interested in learning more about curriculum-integrated careers learning. We look forward to seeing you there.