Many educators worry about student motivation, which typically declines as students grow up through middle school and high school. At the same time, they see the growing importance of friends and peer groups during these same years. A common conclusion is that negative peer influence is undermining student motivation and engagement.
Yet research on peers, teachers and student motivation paints a different, more complex picture. Some major conclusions from research include the following:
- Motivation does tend to decline as students move through middle school and high school.
- Peers do influence motivation and engagement, but that influence is most likely to be positive, not negative. This influence does not overwhelm other influences, such as teachers and parents.
- Peers are much more likely to learn from each other when they are intentionally taught skills and practices for helping each other and solving problems together.
- Teachers — who continue to have much greater influence on academic engagement than peers — play major roles in shaping peer relationships in ways that challenge students to learn and grow, rather than undermining learning.
This month, we focus on the positive influence of friends and peers in challenging students to learn and grow. Just as important, we highlight the role of teachers in creating learning environments and experiences that accentuate positive peer influence for academic motivation and learning. Click the image for research, activities, and tips around peer motivation: