I’m currently in Denmark where I gave the keynote address at the Innovation in Education conference. 


As well the conference, I’ve been working with different schools and organisations around the concept of student (and staff) engagement.


Whilst working with the Department of Pedagogy at the University of Aarhus, one researcher told me of his study that showed that – whilst many teachers and thinkers (myself included) are suggesting students should be allowed more autonomy in education to find their passions and develop goals around their areas of interest – students report not wanting this.


These 16 and 17 year-old students reported wanting in fact needing to be directed as to what they should be doing, even as far as to what they should be passionate about!


So does this mean that those like myself who are pushing for more autonomy in schools are wrong?


You could argue yes.


But I’d suggest that this research could serve as a wake-up call.


Here we have teachers trying to engender and develop intrinsic motivation in their students, and the students are rejecting it.


What becomes of these students when they leave school.


Will they find the same support networks in the workplace or tertiary education?


My experience says no, they won’t.


Intrinsic motivation is an essential component of engagement. If we are genuine about wanting engaged students in school, then we must encourage autonomy from an early age before they become conditioned to having everything done for them.


Even their thinking.


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, consultant, and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler