September 25, 2008

Motivating "These Kids Today" (Discussion/Workshop Extension)

On Tuesday, Dr. Jodi Haney presented a discussion session at the CTL entitled Motivating "These Kids Today" and challenged participants to consider their role in creating an environment that will encourage and foster students' motivation to learn. The bottom line she stressed was that:
"faculty CANNOT motivate students, as motivation is a personal construct and can only come from within… we can only set the scene and create a motivating environment for learning."
Student Motivation is defined as a “student's willingness, need, desire and compulsion to participate in, and be successful in, the learning process" (Bomia et al., 1997, p. 1). This includes extrinsic motivation, where a student engages in learning "purely for the sake of attaining a reward or for avoiding some punishment and intrinsic motivation, when a student is motivated from within, actively engaging in learning out of curiosity, interest, or enjoyment, or in order to achieve their own intellectual and personal goals (Dev, 1997).

One analogy presented was:
To Catch a Cat…
A. Pull the cat out from under the couch
B. Entice the cat by dangling a string
(p.s. - our students are the cats!)

  • Capitalize on students' existing needs
  • Make students active participants in learning
  • Ask students to analyze what makes their classes more or less "motivating.”
  • Instructor's enthusiasm
  • Relevance of the material
  • Organization of the course
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material
  • Active involvement of students
  • Variety
  • Rapport between teacher and students
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples
Incorporating Faculty Behaviors:
  • Hold high but realistic expectations for your learners
  • Help learners set achievable goals for themselves
  • Tell learners what they need to do to succeed in your course
  • Strengthen learners’ sense of power (behavioral choices)
  • Avoid creating intense competition among learners
  • Be enthusiastic about your course
  • Take time to GET TO KNOW learners, talk to them, and express enjoyment in your interactions
  • Vary your teaching methods
Motivating Students to Do the Reading (some examples):
  • Assign the reading at least two sessions before it will be discussed
  • Assign study questions
  • If your class is small, have learners turn in brief notes on the day's reading that they can use during exam (Jodi’s “C option”)
  • Ask learners to write a one-word journal or one- sentence journal summarizing the reading
  • Ask non-threatening questions about the reading (fishbowl)
In summary... Create an environment that provides learners with a SENSE OF:
* POWER - I have control over my learning.
* CONNECTEDNESS - I am a valued member of a learning community.
* MODELS - I can do this because my peers can do it.
* UNIQUENESS - I am an original learner.
(Stevenson, 1992; modified by Haney, 2007)

Dr. Haney encourages all of us (including herself) to focus on incorporating just one or two of these strategies during a semester, reflect on the change throughout, and continue to analyze and build upon them in the future.

What are strategies you use to create an environment where students are motivated to learn? Any other thoughts or comments on this issue?


Jodi Haney said...

I am trying new ideas every semester. This year my ENVS 101v students are creating wiki's on these topics : McCain vs. Obama on the environment, Drilling in ANWR, Alternative Energy, Alternatively Powered Vehicles. So far... BRIGHT EYES and ENGAGED MINDS by 100% of the students. Probably worth mentioning... when I'm up front lecturing or leading a lesson... not quite 100% with bright eyes and engaged minds ;-) Same course went on a 5 hour service learning field trip yesterday (saturday) to help local land owners determine possible environmental problems associated with an encroached drain pipe and potential solutions based on environmental policies and regulations. Started the day with a short yoga class held in nature to help us connect with the earth before we started. Exhausted by days end, but again, BRIGHT EYED and ENGAGED. Would love to know what others are doing... let's exchange ideas!

Michelle said...

We discussed in the workshop giving time in class to do some of the assignments. I admit it - I'm conflicted on this issue. I'm trying it with a group presentation the students will complete, but part of me thinks that's allowing the students too much flexibility. BUT, I might also consider it just another opportunity for the students to be engaged in the material and constructing meaning. Anyone else have a firm opinion?