Authentically Motivating Students

Willems, P. P., & Gonzalez-DeHass, A. R. (n.d.). School – Community Partnerships : Using Authentic Contexts to Academically Motivate Students, 22(2), 9–30.

School-Community Partnerships: Using Authentic Contexts to Academically Motivate Students by Patrica Willems and Alyssa Gonzalez-DeHass discusses ways which the school and community can work together to form a partnership where students can learn by engaging in relevant learning activities.  They ideas are supported with research from three different models; authentic instruction, problem-based learning and service learning, that provide students with an environment with real, interactive life examples for learning and allows them the opportunity to participate in the learning made possible by community partnerships.

The research is very well organized and is separated by headings and subheadings. The writing and lay out is plain and easy enough to follow that it could function as a How To book on building school-community partnerships.


The content of study by Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass is a windfall of information that contributes to the field of research that I am interested.  This is exactly the type of research I imagined prior to starting classes. As it relates to what was discussed in class, this is the narrowing of resources in the midst of the breadth of material we’ve covered so far.  There are several factors I have yet to explore. For example, “which methodologies have the best chance of addressing teachers’ needs to meet significant curricular objectives amidst pressure for accountability and time demands associated with statewide standardized testing?”(Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.25) There is also “limited time to meet, identify, and contact community members” (Hands, 2005, p.71) not to mention the   There is still more to uncover and that will require an even more narrow focus but this is an excellent start on my journey to gathering resources and gaining perspective.


The theoretical framework, “student academic success is best achieved through the cooperation and support of schools, families, and communities” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.9) aligns perfectly with my topic of inquiry.  I want to bring the school where I work and its local community together for the benefit of student motivation.  I’d like for the community to witness results like the Problem Based Learners who had “higher levels of intrinsic goal orientation, task value, use of elaborative learning strategies, critical thinking, and metacognitive self-regulation in comparison to students instructed in a more traditional teacher/textbook-centered fashion” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.21). I believe this research is timely, which will carry  weight in attempting to create change.  Its relevance is demonstrated by the service learning model, which is “increasing in popularity, with some estimates showing that approximately 30% of all public schools and 50% of high schools include service learning as part of their curriculum.” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.23)


The study by Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass did not discuss their own collection of data.  Instead, they were informed by a collection of research from a variety of sources. To begin, the discussion connected and fit together references to “the literature that address the social contexts of learning, including that of situated learning, social constructivism, and learner-centered education.” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.10)  Next, Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass provided a section titled, “Suggestions for School-Community Partnerships” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.13) which revealed some of the pitfalls and necessities of establishing partnerships.  Finally, three different models; “authentic instruction, problem-based learning and service learning” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.9) were discussed which actually inspired me to make notes and begin planning some details for my own innovation that I may otherwise have over looked.  I have a model now of how I will communicate my intentions to the stakeholders which will be invaluable for coordinating their efforts.


Some of the examples that are compelling are the ones that teach students through doing instead of observing through the words in a textbook.  The advantage is that students have the school to support their access to areas of the community that would otherwise be unavailable. As students in the youth participatory action research “by learning what resources and opportunities other schools offered, the school visits gave them a context to understand their own schooling experience” (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013, p.9), it will be my goal to provide similar experiences at my workplace for similar results. In view of equitable education there is no text books required.  Students will have real world tools at their disposal. Lastly, the impact a program like this will have on the students is beyond measure. There is a benefit in every aspect of the program. First, students will be more intrinsically motivated from their experience and exposure to achievable possibilities. And “By including students in identifying genuine needs in the community, they are more likely to see their involvement as making a significant difference even as they further their own academic learning” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.24).   Second, students will get to experience a variety of opportunities to help them to define their interests. More importantly, “infusing these opportunities for contextualized learning into academic activities will help students begin to see the meaningfulness of academic subject matter and its relevance beyond the classroom setting.”(Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.25)


The study by Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass did not conclude with any result to reflect on.  They make a very reasonable case to move towards building partnerships. The final comments are proposals for future work that will need to be done “that will require ongoing discussion and reflection in the educational community.”(Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.25)  Some new ideas that I will have to consider will be how to present this innovation to the district office level.  While brainstorming ideas I suspect that their primary concern will be the expenses involved, and what the implications are on testing and student achievement.




Bautista, M.A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the council of youth research UCLA, 115(100303), 1–23.

Hands, C. (n.d.). It ’ s Who You Know and What You Know :  e Process of Creating Partnerships Between Schools and Communities, 63–84.

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