Another recognized factor in low motivation levels is lack of physical activity. Physical activity in the form of outdoor sports and games is an integral part of the process of growing up. Such exercise helps the body and mind grow to its full potential. A good foundation in physical education during teenage years is said to prepare students for physical activity for the rest of their lives. Educators should be worried if highschoolers are spotted shunning outdoor sports, as it could lead to making them adopt sedentary lifestyles as adults. More importantly, there is a definite correlation between lack of physical activity and low motivation levels. While this correlation is not so strong during teenage years, it strengthens during the next two decades of their lives. According to a nationwide survey of 2500 high school students, close to 56 percent of sampled students were found to have less than requisite physical training during high school years. Divided into groups A,B,C,D and E, with A being the group with highest physical activity and E being the least physically active group, the study found groups C,D and E to comprise nearly two thirds of the total sample. This situation poses a real challenge to school administrators. Further, the students falling in C, D and E classifications posed more problems for their teachers:
“Their teachers found that they were a challenge to engage even in the best lessons, because of low motivation and lack of interest in most physical activities. Teachers often describe such students as “difficult to teach.” We have a few examples of research on programs that successfully engage students that fit this profile, but it is an uphill challenge. While Group A and B students enjoyed physical education and participated wholeheartedly, regardless of the activity or the group to which they were assigned, Group C, D, and E students had not learned to value physical education and activity.” (Bogenschneider, et. al., 1998, p.33)
It is also believed that a pupil’s ability to perform metacognitive skills is both a cause and consequence of motivation levels. In order for students to perform reflective thinking, skillful learning, etc, they need metacognitive skills. The better students are those who take time to think about learning strategies and are able to assess their own performance in class. There are always a percentage of students in each class who are inherently gifted to work independently, and to “focus on understanding the material and are able to connect the content and instructional concepts to their own lives. As self-regulated learners, they use metacognitive abilities to plan, regulate, and assess their performance.” (Joseph, 2006, p.33) It is not surprising that usually such students have high motivation levels as well. On the other hand, most highschoolers do not possess sophisticated thinking and learning capability. This group of students needs encouragement from teachers and parents in order to establish and sustain constant focus on their learning activities. They also have a tendency to fall back into unproductive learning techniques. Even if they are able to read and interpret a text, this group of students does not easily trust their own understanding. Insofar as metacognition involves the ability to understand one’s own learning process through a process of self-regulation, these students usually fall short of the mark. Their difficulties in the classroom lead to low motivation, which consequently discourages them from putting whole-hearted efforts. Hence a vicious cycle is established leading to consistent underperformance in tests.
The vicious cycle of learning difficulty and low motivation is a phenomenon confined to the classroom. Outside of it, there is another manifest negative spiral, in which social and economic circumstances of the teenage student leads to low motivation levels in all facets of life. Consider the following statistics:
“up to a quarter of all students are not graduating on time or not graduating at all. Students from low-income families are 4 times more likely to drop out of school than are students from high-income families. Approximately 1 in 10 youth from low-income families drop out of school (10.4%) compared with 2.5% in high-income families. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 3.3 million people, or 11% of people ages 18 to 24 years, were high school dropouts in 2006. Almost 9% of 16- to 24-year-olds were considered to have dropped out of school prior to earning a diploma in 2007.” (White & Kelly, 2010, p.227)