I saw part of an interview with Pat Summitt where she mentioned that the current generation of student athletes seem to be less motivated than her previous players. And her players should be among the most motivated of any college student athlete anywhere. This ties in with a recent discussion amongst the faculty that most of the students who are performing below average are doing so because they simply aren't doing the work. Lab reports? Apparently optional. Regularly turning in homework, if at all? Just busywork. Turning in a paper worth ten percent of the grade? Nah.
Speaking of student athletes, my school's basketball team made it to the State Quarterfinals, their best season ever. Nine out of the thirteen players on the roster have taken astronomy with me.
I do not assign any work that isn't useful. Do I assign a lot of physics homework? Yeah, and if the students do it, they tend to do very well on exams. Do I make my astronomy and physics students write short papers? Yes, I do, because synthesizing and articulating scientific ideas are crucial instructional objectives. I even tell them why I give them the different assignments. I make each assignment worth a decent chunk of their grade in the course, so it is worth their time to do the assignments. Motivation has always come from within for me. I'm most competitive with myself. So I find myself wondering how to motivate students to do work they just don't want to do?