Branching Together: Instilling Intrinsic Motivation

BLFE Innovation Incubator Proposal 2012

Branching Together: Instilling Intrinsic Motivation

Proposed by:

Angelica Veza, Development Assistant at City on a Hill Charter Public School

Alexandria Chiu, Tutor at City on a Hill Charter Public School

1) Statement of Need

The Problem: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation

Most teachers have been challenged with a classroom of equally talented students but see only a select few making the grades. Ms. Chiu, a tutor at City on a Hill Charter Public School, has faced the same obstacles, specifically with two students who have, on separate instances, produced amazing work. The difference is Lola will relentlessly revise a paragraph three times until she received an A, whereas Tina has not completed a week of class nor any assignment and therefore, has ensured that she will be repeating her current grade next year. Although both students have the capacity to yield outstanding work, the main characteristic that sets them apart is intrinsic motivation.

Many teachers want to help cultivate intrinsic motivation in each of their students but are unable to do so, due to limited time in the classroom and ranging learning needs and abilities. A new approach must be utilized in our education system, one focused on instilling and developing intrinsic motivation. “Even though attendance is compulsory, establishing a commitment to education is essential if you are to benefit from what schools have to offer and acquire the capabilities they need to succeed in the current marketplace… Intrinsically motivated students prefer challenge and are persistent when faced with difficulty each of these concepts emphasizes the degree to which students are invested in and value learning and assumes that investment is related to, but separate from strategic learning.”[i]

Cultivation of Intrinsic Motivation

Educators can equip students with the tools they need to succeed and show them the doors to opportunities, but some students need to be shown where these doors will lead and an extra push to walk through them. Unfortunately, a majority of Boston Public School students come from low-income families with parents that work long hours and/or care for more than one child.  As a result, many of these students lack support at home, resources, and exposure to examples of success beyond the classroom, and thus, students lack motivation and a role model to help reinforce the benefits of a good education.

There are two distinct ways to mitigate these lacking components. One is the presence of an inspirational and successful adult, who can give a student guidance and exposure to a professional environment. “High school students often spend more time learning to recall facts than engaging in higher order thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation. The mentorship program on the other hand, immerses the student in higher order thought processes of the professional”[ii]. With this type of role model, students can see and understand what life has to offer with a complete education. The second is experiences outside of the classroom. Boston is a city with a wealth of untapped opportunities for local students to enhance their academic lessons using a hands-on approach. When students understand the value of education, it forms a classroom that wants to be educated, and what results is students’ acknowledgement that the classroom is preparation for a brighter future paired with the intrinsic motivation to utilize education to create their brighter future.

2) Proposed Innovation
Branching Together is dedicated to instilling and further developing intrinsic motivation in high school students. We do this by giving students the opportunity to expand their learning outside of school walls and to cultivate a student-mentor relationship with graduate students and professionals in the City of Boston as well as experience their mentors’ field of work. This chance to have exposure outside of the school walls and to develop a student-mentor relationship will be integrated into the school culture and curriculum and will be a four-year (Freshman-Senior year) commitment between the student and mentor.

While there are a myriad of mentorship programs in the City of Boston, Branching Together will be integrated into a school’s weekly schedule and curriculum – not an after school program. Instead, it is a class taken once a week. Additionally, each student will have their own mentor to gain personalized attention versus other programs where the ratio is one mentor for every five students. Branching Together also creates a space for students to own their education instead of a program with mandatory assignments and projects.  Branching Together is composed of three different components:

1) Mentorship: Students shadow, work and collaborate with mentors, whom they pick through an interview process. These mentors work in a field that is of interest to their respective student and have an interest or connection with education. The student and mentor work together all four years of the student’s high school career and meet once a week during the school year. By the student’s senior year, the student and mentor will have an opportunity to present their work and collaboration at an end of the year celebration.

2) Purposeful Learning: While working with the mentor and learning outside of the classroom, students apply their academic lessons in a real-world setting. In turn, students physically see and experience how their academic courses are essential to their future, thus eliminating the question, “Why do we have to learn this anyway?” In a study conducted by The Rennie Center for Education and Policy, researchers examined promising practices designed to reduce dropout rates in Massachusetts Schools and Districts and found that the most successful practices have been attributed to “...academic support with initiatives to foster students’ increased engagement in school—through efforts to personalize learning and the school environment, increase the focus on the relevance of school to students’ future, and to support students’ social and emotional needs”[iii].

3) Life Skills: By gaining outside exposure in a professional setting, students have the chance to gain and practice life skills that are necessary for success, i.e. eye-contact, strong communication skills, etc.

Combined, these three different aspects of Branching Together give students unique opportunities that will help develop within them a love of learning and intrinsic motivation and, in turn, decrease school dropout rates and increase academic achievement.

What does the program look like?

1)             Role Models: Mentors are those who are passionate about education and “in-touch” with education in some manner. Additionally, mentors are graduate students and professionals in their respective field and can offer a unique experience to our students. Mentors will be recruited and maintained through partnerships built with graduate programs, firms, and companies.

2)             Interview Process: Students will receive a survey and rubric to complete and follow allowing them to indicate their preferences of what field they would like to work in and their interests. Based on that, the Branching Together team will set up interviews between the student and potential mentors giving students that best fits the students’ and mentors’ preferences. By allowing them to take ownership, they can truly pursue and explore an area of interest to them with a mentor they can relate to and respect.

3)             Integrated into the School Day: In order for students to successfully apply what they learn academically in the real world, Branching Together needs to be implemented into a school day. To achieve this, classes will be shortened on Wednesdays and students will be dismissed early to meet with their mentors. During this time, teachers have professional development and lesson planning time. On the Thursdays after, students in similar fields, i.e. Medicine, Art, Law, etc. will gather during their typical Home Room time to share and use their experiences to work on collaborative projects lead. This will be an opportunity to assess the program’s effectiveness on a regular basis. (Please See Section 3 “First Steps and Resources Required” for more information regarding management of the program.)

4)   Tracking Students and Evaluating the Program: In order to measure the success and effectiveness of Branching Together, the following will be reported and tracked at the end of each school year: grades, MCAS scores, attendance rates, attrition rates, school safety discipline reports, observations, and surveys. The Rochester School Assessment Package will also be utilized because it is the most common measure of behavioral and emotional engagement.

3) First Steps & Resources Required

1)             District and School Support: Branching Together needs permission from the district to change the daily schedule and successfully implement Branching Together into school’s programming and curriculum in Boston Public Schools.

2)             Partnerships: As Branching Together seeks prospective mentors for the program, partnerships need to be established to help maintain consistency and sustainability of the program. Branching Together seeks partnerships with graduate programs, firms, and corporate companies in all fields.

3)             Pilot: To start, Branching Together will be piloted at a charter public high school. As employees of City on a Hill Charter Public School and co-writers of this proposal, Ms. Chiu and Ms. Veza have the potential to implement Branching Together at City on a Hill.

4)             Money: Funding would be required for general starting up costs, i.e. salary and basic supplies. To start, most of the money can be acquired from in-kind donation and charitable foundations. The approximate budget to pilot this program is $500,000.

5)             Team: Branching Together requires a diverse, dedicated, and highly qualified team to execute this program. The following departments and roles are required:

a.              Development/Recruitment: Recruitment engages potential mentors and helps them transition into the program Development supports Recruitment in their recruiting efforts. Development also coordinates networking, fundraising, and program-wide events in addition to all other fundraising efforts.

b.              Program Management: Program Leaders oversee implementation of the program into schools and collaborate with school leaders to execute that implementation. Program Leaders also work with school administration to assure that the program is enhancing the school’s student achievement and quality of life as well as conduct monthly check-ins with mentors. Program Managers work more closely with student groups and teachers to assess the program’s effectiveness and track student progress.

4) Impact

The impact of Branching Together is vast. In the short term, students build a strong relationship with their mentors. In turn, these mentors expose their mentees to their respective professions and give them learning experiences outside of the classroom. Additionally, students explore and literally put their education into practice through real-life application. As a result, this helps foster intrinsic motivation and lead to an improvement in classroom attitude and engagement. This will also yield positive trends in grades and in classroom behavior. In the long term, Branching Together goal of nurturing intrinsic motivation will ultimately decrease dropout rates and increase academic achievement.


[i]    P60-64, Fredricks, Jennifer A., Phyllis C. Blumenfeld, and Allison H. Paris. "School Engagement:

            Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence." Review of Educational Research 74.1

            (2004): 59-109. JSTOR. Web. 31 May 2012. <>.


[ii]    P222, Backes, John S. "A Successful High School Mentorship Program." The Clearing House 65.4 (1992): 222-224. JSTOR. Web. 31 May 2012. <>.


[iii]    P10, "Meeting the Challenge: Promising Practices for Reducing the Dropout Rate in Massachusetts

            Schools and Districts." Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy: Policy Briefs

            (Feb. 2009): n. pag. Print.