We know, from years of research, that gaining insight into middle and high school students’ social-emotional skills is essential for motivating them to become self-propelled young adults. So we have broken these social-emotional skills into five simple areas:
1. Relationships: The single most powerful thing that educators can do to increase motivation is to build close connections with their students. Our ongoing research has taught us that those close connections become truly developmental for young people when five elements occur regularly and authentically in the relationship: expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power, and expanding possibilities.
2. Effort: Adults need to help students believe that when they challenge themselves mentally, use good learning strategies and see mistakes and failures as opportunities to improve, they can become smarter and more successful in school.
3. Aspirations: If we help students develop positive visions of their possible selves, and see how their actions in the present will affect their ability to realize those visions, we can improve both academic effort and academic outcomes.
4. Cognition: When we teach students to think about their own thinking, it strengthens their ability to manage learning and control impulses. Those skills, in turn, strengthen students’ abilities to complete tasks and achieve goals.
5. Heart: Educators can support students’ intrinsic motivation by helping them discover and reflect on what they love to do (their sparks) and what they love about themselves (their best values). When students see their own strengths, and when educators acknowledge those strengths, students are better able to resist biases (such as stereotype threat) and achieve their full potential in school.
Together, these 5 factors create the acronym REACH, our system of professional learning and practical resources that helps schools intentionally strengthen student motivation.
REACH pulls diverse bodies of research on social-emotional strengths together into a single structure that is understandable and actionable in the classroom and school-wide.