10 ways to keep your students motivated
The Educationalist. By Alexandra Mihai
Welcome to a new issue of “The Educationalist”! I thought it might be a good idea to dedicate this week’s issue to a topic that is constantly on our mind, as educators: student motivation. While a big part of the responsibility lies, of course, with students themselves, there are many aspects of our course design through which we can encourage and support them to stay motivated and engaged throughout- and sometimes even beyond- the course. I will share a few ideas and, as usual, provide some resources for further reading and inspiration. I hope you find it useful and I’m looking forward to hearing some of your tips for increasing student motivation.
Ten ways to motivate your students & help them motivate themselves
Keep your students interested in the topic of your course; regardless whether it is a compulsory or an elective course, try to make sure they understand the relevance of what you are teaching for their everyday life; remember to give plenty of examples to illustrate your more abstract ideas or concepts and ask them to come up with their own examples; this will help them construct their own meaning of the topics you teach;
Set clear learning goals, make sure they are achievable in the given time and design an effective way of monitoring them; involve the students in this process, if possible; you will be surprised how their engagement and motivations levels will increase;
Develop a meaningful structure for your course; make sure the students understand the dynamic of your class and know what is expected from them. Plan each class in a rigorous way, paying special attention to the learning goals and time management; but also plan for the unexpected, be flexible, always have a “plan B”. Students will appreciate it and stay “on board”. Storyboarding is a useful technique for planning your course; you can find some suggestions here;
Offer your students the support they need. Do it in a systematic manner (i.e. office hours, regular feedback, etc) but also be spontaneous and react to their needs. Showing our students we care can be done in various ways and is so important! You can find some ideas and resources here;
Give students control of their learning. This does not mean you are no longer in control of your course; it simply allows the students to take a central role in their learning, be involved in setting the goals and to a certain extent the means to achieve them. You are still the one designing the syllabus, but involving the students in the choice of activities or evaluation criteria for assignments will only make them more motivated over time;
Try to engage the students in various ways throughout the course. And make sure all the students are engaged in a certain way. To achieve this, you may want to give them or let them assume certain roles such as: discussion moderator, commentator, note-taker, expert on a certain issue, group facilitator, etc. You may want to try out active learning methods like Problem-Based Learning or Project-Based Learning;
Encourage intrinsic over extrinsic motivation. Rewards are important, but training the students to keep themselves motivated by developing an interest in the topic and a desire to deepen their knowledge is even more important in the long run;
One way to re-focus them towards intrinsic motivation is to encourage students to reflect on their own learning. Self-reflection exercises- in oral or written form- can take place at the end of each class (briefly), at the end of one assignment and/or at the end of the course. Train your students to reflect on what they learned, what is still unclear, how they feel about the dynamic of the class, what are the driving factors and the obstacles for their learning, etc.. You can find some ideas and resources here;
Create a learning environment that encourages students to be open and to try out new things without being afraid of the consequences that might have on their grades. Teach your students to learn from failure rather than be afraid of it. Train them in the spirit of positive competition but also make sure they understand the value of genuine collaboration;
Make a real effort to know your students. The more you understand their background and interests the better you will be able to tailor your course to match their expectations and provide them with a positive learning experience. Show interest in their stories and passions; try if possible to incorporate them in your classes. And don’t be afraid, when appropriate, to share your own stories. The personal connection between teacher and students remains one of the strongest motivational factors.
If you want to read more about ways to keep your students engaged and create the conditions for them to stay motivated, I recommend the following resources:
Motivating Students, Vanderbilt University- an extensive guide on how to think about student motivation, how to encourage and support our students to stay motivated; it includes some very useful practical strategies, as well as some theoretical consideration;
Five Keys to Motivating Students- an overview of the practical implication of research on motivation for our teaching practice;
Five Ways to Get Students Thinking about Learning, Not Grades- some ideas on how you can tweak your course design to make students more intrinsically motivated and less grade-oriented;
Strategies for Helping Students Motivate Themselves- useful tips on what we as educators can do to support students in motivating themselves;
Creating the Conditions for Student Motivation- what can education institutions do to create conditions for more intrinsic student motivation?
21 Simple Ideas To Improve Student Motivation- quick tips that you can use in your classroom to motivate students;
Enhancing Learning through Zest, Grit, and Sweat- some thoughts on how to help students grow as learners while they learn the content.
Survey on Centres for Teaching & Learning
I am delighted to participate together with Laura Czerniewicz and Deborah Arnold at the Media & Learning Online Autumn Conference on November 18th. In the opening session we will be discussing the changing role of Centres for Teaching and Learning, audio-visual and learning technology support units. I already elaborated on this topic in my newsletter and Laura put together a very useful analytical review of CTLs here.
In preparation for the session, but also as an exploration for future research we would like to hear a little about your own experience. Please complete this very short poll (a few minutes!) by November 15th. We will present the results and insights during the session at Media & Learning online and I will also follow up with a summary on my blog. Thank you so much in advance for your contribution!