Good Example Of Research Paper On Underachievement And Lack Of Motivation
Type of paper: Research Paper
Topic: Students, Education, School, Health, College, Psychology, High School, Gender
An 18-year-old, who is graduating in May, has not completed any college applications or expressed any plans for life after high school. This may seem an unusual problem, but research indicates that there is a significant population of high school students who are less than eager to attend college (Bush, 2005). From a psychological standpoint, this lack of motivation in continuing education is complicated, with many potential causes depending on gender, class and a host of other considerations, including academic underachievement. The chief culprit of high school students not attending college seems to be underachievement and lack of motivation, psychological problems that are deeply present in many populations, and which require direct solutions to address this issue.
There are many reasons why students choose not to go to college. Among the most commonly-cited ones are a lack of finances to afford school, the circumstance of already having a lucrative job out of high school, anxiety over low high school grades, previous family generations not going to college, and a general lack of direction in life (Scholarships.com). These socioeconomic and psychological forces often lead to tremendous distress about the prospect of going to college, something which has been culturally ingrained as part of the experience of growing up in 21st-century America (Batenburg-Eddes & Jolles 1).
Generally, it is thought that academic underachievement is deeply tied to well-being and the biological changes of puberty. In adolescence, teenagers go through a series of dramatic changes, both biologically and psychologically, making these years incredibly turbulent for them with a high degree of emotional instability (Batenburg-Eddes & Jolles 1). Because of this emotional instability, teenagers are more likely to distance themselves from learning and school participation; this can lead to lower grades and attendance, as well as the possibility of school dropout (Batenburg-Eddes & Jolles 2). Studies show a decided link between emotional well-being and underachievement, with a disproportionate number of underachieving students being boys (Batenburg-Eddes & Jolles 6). Underachievers tend to have negative attitudes toward teachers, about their own educational abilities and cognition, as well as problems with self-monitoring and self-control (Batenburn-Eddes & Jolles 6).
The causes of these negative attitudes and lower emotional well-being are myriad. Some of the transitions deal greatly with the transfer from primary school to secondary school, which can be considered a major life event (Batenburn-Eddes & Jolles 7). The combination of these new environs, along with the biological effects of puberty and the psychosocial factors that come with bullying, discovering relationships and sexuality, as well as rebellion toward parents and authority figures, can all factor greatly into the development of underachievement and behavioral problems in school.
More than a sense of poor well-being, serious mental health problems may also be the cause of underachievement and lack of motivation in students. According to Tempelaar et al., “delayed school progression, used as a proxy for poor school achievement, was associated with adolescent mental health problems” (252). Among the conditions associated with adolescent underachievement in school are the development of schizophrenia later in life, anxiety and depression disorders, as well as several other psychiatric disorders (Tempelaar et al. 244). While delayed school progression is more pronounced in boys than girls, there is no indicator that boys are more likely to have a mental health disorder than girls (Tempelaar et al. 250). In many ways, school achievement and mental health disorders may be considered comorbid conditions, as one may contribute to the other: “poor school achievement might function as a trigger for alterations in the causal pathway of genetic and environmental factors underlying neurobiological changes leading to mental disorders” (Tempelaar et al. 253). To that end, poor school achievement and lack of motivation may be indicated by the presence of depression and anxiety, or other more serious disorders, in a student’s life.
Of particular concern is the gender divide between underachievement in male and female high school students. According to Bush (2005), educational attainment statistics indicate that men are being outperformed by women in English and in overall secondary school education. While this may be attributable to women simply doing better in formal assessment and boys requiring a more holistic approach, the trends exist nonetheless. Schools have long been established as institutes in which social cues and norms have been instilled in both boys and girls, and where “oppressive networks of students police and regulate acceptable standards of conduct” (Bush 74). In this respect, the changing politics of effort and the characterization of academics as feminine are dramatically affecting male students’ levels of achievement.
One possible reason for the underachievement in high school boys is the ever-changing gender dynamics that are challenging traditional notions of masculinity. In essence, traditional masculinity can be defined as being aggressive, assertive, confident, withholding with emotions and seizing opportunities; however, modern-day men are not placed under such strict gender roles (Bush 73). At the same time, nothing has been established to replace it, and the conflict between expectations of male behavior from culture and society and the realities of male behavior, can lead to underachievement in academic assessment. Teaching, in particular, is seen as a feminine practice, and is socially coded as such; to that end, boys are less motivated to learn from teachers and take them on as role models (Bush 74). While these observations take on a Freudian approach (linking femininity to deep Oedipal ties to one’s mother), it can be said that the socioeconomic and gender politics of the 21st century are providing boys a way to act out their own resistance to feminization through academic underachievement.
In order to address these problems of underachievement and a lack of motivation, a number of things must be considered. First, the focus seems to be on improving emotional well-being through whatever means are possible, whether through instilling in students a sense of self-monitoring and self-control, or to improve attitudes and relationships with teachers (Batenburn-Eddes & Jolles, 2013). With regards to the gender divide in underachievement, conditions must be improved so as to further incentivize young men to avoid feeling disenfranchised and rebellious due to changing gender norms. Finally, screening for mental health disorders (such as anxiety and depression) may also be necessary in order to fully address the problems experienced by underachieving high school students.
When a student chooses not to go to college, they may do so because of a sense of underachievement and lack of motivation in academia, which stems from a number of factors. Adolescence itself is a tremendously intense transitional time in a child’s life, in which one’s identity is discovered and children are attempting to figure out who they are and what they are interested in. This is also the time at which signs for mental health disorders may be present, and when children are dealing with complicated issues of gender, maturity and emotional well-being. Understanding these factors in a teenager’s life may help to address problems of poor performance and a lack of interest in college.
Bush, Adam. “Paying close attention at school: some observations and psychoanalytic
perspectives on the educational underachievement of teenage boys.” Infant Observation 8,1 (April 2005): 69-79.
Scholarships.com. “Why Students Don’t Go to College.” Scholarships.com. 2014.
Tempelaar, Wanda, et al. “Delayd school progression and mental health problems in
adolescence: a population-based study in 10,803 adolescents.” BMC Psychiatry 14 (2014): 244.
van Batenburg-Eddes, Tamara, and Jolles, Jelle. “How does emotional wellbeing relate to
underachievement in a general population sample of young adolescents: a neurocognitive perspective.” Frontiers in Psychology 4, 673 (2013). pp. 1-10.