Feed on

As we approach the middle of the semester, energy levels in the classroom may begin to flag. With students eagerly anticipating the reprieve of Fall Break, maintaining their motivation is more important than ever to ensure you and your students make the next week of classes count. Motivation is a complex phenomenon that varies from one individual to the next, but can broadly be broken down into two distinct but related kinds: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from the inward disposition of the student, usually manifesting as interest in the subject and strongly held personal goals. Extrinsic motivation consists in the incentives offered by peers, instructors, and others that offer students an additional reason to complete a task. Although it can take time to build up and sustain intrinsic motivation, there are several steps you can take in your classroom that use some form of extrinsic motivation to cultivate and deepen student interest.

  • If your class size permits, try not just to know but to use your students’ names regularly. Building on the relationships you’ve already established with students will help here. If you know why they are taking your class or what their interest in the subject is, you can refer to this when moving toward your learning goals for the class. Draw students’ attention to the way in which the material you cover today pertains to their other interests and pursuits. Reaching out to your students this way also makes it easier to illustrate for them your own intrinsic motivation for teaching the class and will help you communicate your own enthusiasm more effectively.
  • Consider the impact the classroom setup and structure have on your students, based on your knowledge of their personalities and the learning goals for the day. Arranging desks and chairs into a circle or U-shape so they can see and respond to each other makes them active participants and encourages commitment to the classroom through engagement with their friends and peers. Not every class lends itself to this kind of discussion based format, so keep in mind other active learning methods that might suit your particular students and objectives.
  • You can keep your class relevant to students’ lives by using plenty of current events and real world examples. Finding recent opinion pieces or news stories that are related to the classroom conversation is an engaging way to explain the importance of the material to students and allows them to connect their own interests and passions to matter at hand.
  • Give the students ownership of their work by assigning papers or projects that require them to choose the particular topic or focus. Additionally, think of rewards or incentives to offer that will bring students together in pursuit of a shared goal. Shared work can foster relationships that are more likely to continue their interest once the reward or incentive is no longer in play. Through real world applications, the example of your own enthusiasm, and the experience of working with their peers to achieve a goal, you can cultivate a variety of motivational factors in the classroom to see you through the rest of the semester.

Related Kaneb Workshop materials can be found here:

Fostering Student Motivation through Instruction

Motivation and Learning

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