AP Students: Reflecting Upon What Drives You

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online.  IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes.  Educators can learn more here.

We recently discussed ways high school students enrolled in online APTM courses can maintain motivation.  Motivation can push students toward higher achievement, an outcome sometimes accompanied by a boost in self-esteem.  Importantly though, high self-esteem that depends upon success is fragile and may put students at risk for poor mental health outcomes.

“Letting Go of Self-Esteem”

Scientific American Mind recently examined self-esteem, or how we feel about ourselves, in their September issue.  Self-esteem is generally thought to be essential to healthy functioning.  Yet authors Crocker and Carnevale warn that the pursuit of self-esteem can negatively impact well-being.  In other words, individuals who define their worth by success may experience strong negative reactions whenever they confront failure.

Students, Schoolwork, and Self-Esteem

Students should be encouraged to take part in activities that stretch their creativity and intellect.  However, students should also explore why they feel motivated to take on such challenges.  For example, the junior who enrolls in too many APTM classes may recognize after reflection that she “needs” success to feel good about herself and in turn, may be emotionally vulnerable to failure.

Furthermore, Crocker and Carnevale note that pursuit of success to boost self-esteem may undermine intrinsic motivation, leaving individuals completing tasks because they feel they have to rather than because they want to.  Although everyone has assignments or projects they must complete even when they do not want to do so, students enrolled in APTM courses should be wary if they feel this way about all coursework.

Turning Motivation Outward

Crocker and Carnevale recommend that instead of taking a self-centered perspective on success, we should strive toward community-oriented goals.  For students in online APTM courses, this may mean forming goals with others in their physical or virtual classrooms, such as committing to preparing and taking the APTM exam with a few classmates.  Choosing this approach allows students to still feel motivated to achieve but also promotes greater feelings of compassion for others on their “team.”  The authors also suggest using strategies like self-distancing, or taking the perspective of an outside person when processing an emotional event.  This strategy may be beneficial for students who need to distance themselves from negative feelings they experience upon receiving a poor test grade or critical feedback on an assignment.


Selected Resources:

Crocker, J., Karpinski, A., Quinn, D., & Chase, S. (2003). When grades determine self-worth: Consequences of contingent self-worth for male and female engineering and psychology majors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(3), 507-516.

Foley-Nicpon, M., Rickels, H., Assouline, S. G., & Richards, A. (2012). Self-esteem and self-concept examination among gifted students with ADHD. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 35(3), 220-240.

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