Friday, April 2, 2010

How do we motivate students?

How do we motivate students? I know I don't know how to motivate all students. I try to tell them why learning is important, how an education can make them a better person (and more money) and how important it is to do your best in any endeavor.

Some students are self-motivated. They want to do well. They compete with others to do well in school. They like the feeling they get when they do well. Some are motivated by their parents and a history of being pushed to do their best.

What about the rest? I know some unmotivated students can actually get motivated when they finally do well on something. They get a taste of success and want to get more and more of it. Some students do things to avoid a punishment. That only works for so long.

Then there are the students who aren't motivated because they don't see the point in education. Their parents aren't educated and they do ok in the student's eyes. Or, they see their friends working at the local store and think that is a great job (Stop and Shop is a coveted job by my students). The other issues we have to fight is students who see the guys selling drugs and making lots of money, and I've had students tell me why should they worry about school when their mom doesn't work but gets a check every month. There are a lot of things that affect how these students feel about education.

In Connecticut, we have the CAPT test as our standardized test for 10th graders. One of the data points that the State and Feds look at is the percentage of the 10th grade class that takes all sections of the test. Many schools use prizes to motivate students to come every day to take the test. But this only works to get them there. What motivates students to do their best?

In a previous article, I talked about forcing students to learn and how maybe we should look at more alternative programs for students who aren't interested in academics or college, but would rather do a trade, or learn better in different ways. I wonder what we can do to help motivate students who don't see the point in school or aren't into academics at all.

We can use technology to give students access to new things and see new things to motivate them to do well and be successful so that they can go see these things for real. We can use technology to create alternative programs and online classes to help struggling students achieve success which will hopefully get them motivated to try to succeed all the time. We can use technology to make learning more fun and interactive and get these students to like learning.

Rewards are good in some cases. Giving students free time, a pass on homework, time on a computer, etc. can get them to do some things and motivate them in some ways. But how long can rewards motivate students?

We can show students data about how much more money they can make being educated. How much more of the world is opened up to them. But that won't motivate them all.

We can show them what happens to drug dealers and how welfare is not the answer. But some of them won't care.

Some ideas for motivating students (by getting them more interested in learning)
1. Be enthusiastic and positive about what you teach. Create a positive learning environment for them.
2. Let students have some of the fun and let them discover things on their own instead of telling them it all up front.
3. Use visual aids, movies, examples, props, demonstrations and more
4. Take a field trip and make it real
5. Show them how great it feels to succeed and do well (they will want that feeling again)
6. Give them praise for doing well (they will crave it more and more). Frequent, early praise show them that they can do well.
7. Care about students and their lives. Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing. Talk to them about why they didn't do the work and what might be bothering them.
8. Reward them with different things. But, start slowing down on the rewards and increasing the praise as time goes on. Sometimes the praise and attention of an adult is a reward for many students.
9. Create tasks and work that students can complete and succeed in doing (not too easy, not too hard). Give them the skills and resources they need to succeed.
10. Help your students find personal meaning and value in the material that you are teaching.
11. Make your students feel valued and special by acknowledging their contributions to the class.

What else can we do to motivate students?

Please share your ideas!



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