Monday, March 14, 2016

Being SMART about Student Motivation

Motivation can add 10 points to a test.  It can take 10 seconds off of your long distance run, and it may just add 10 years to your life.  When we are motivated, we get more done and we get it done more enthusiastically.  To put it another way, motivation is exponent of life.  The more of it we have, the more fruitful our life will be.

Well, what if you're not motivated?
Bill Ferriter shared an interesting article by @MindShift about the brain research behind motivation, and it revealed that if we psyche ourselves up and focus our thoughts on being successful, we will ignite the neurons in the part of the brain that controls motivation.  So the evidence is conclusive. We can motivate ourselves if we make a concerted effort to do so.

So what if our students are unmotivated learners?
After reading the article, I was drawn to another @MindShift article called 20 Strategies for Motivating Reluctant Learners.  The piece highlighted Kathy Perez, an educator and consultant, who shared her ideas about ways to fire up the neurons in our unmotivated students.  She pointed out that motivated learning requires lots of action, interaction, and excitement, and here are a few reminders that we must never forget if we want to fire up our kids for learning.

  • Student attention spans equal 1 minute per year of age.  (8 years olds have an attention span for any given activity for 8 minutes.)
  • Boredom is Motivation's Kryptonite - If you don't respond to student boredom, they will lose the motivation to learn.
  • Goal Setting is Essential - If we want kids to stay motivated, they must help set measurable and attainable goals that will keep them focused on the learning for the day.
  • Group Collaboration with short time limits accelerates motivation - Instead of allowing 5 minutes to do group collaboration, Kathy recommends using seconds, like 72 seconds, to collaborate. The short amount of time actually focuses kids on more active learning.
In order to motivate the unmotivated, it requires us to ensure that the learning actually matters to kids.  It has to be learning that it attainable, but most importantly it has to be safe. The biggest turn-off to learning is not when the learning is boring.  It is when the learning makes kids lose faith in their ability as learners. 

Motivated Learning is SMART.
If you want more kids to be excited about the learning in your classroom, you have to determine if the learning tasks you select faciliate the SMART mentality.
  • Specific & Stimulating - Does the learning have a specific goal and is it introduced in a way that piques our students' curiosity to want to know more about it.  
  • Meaningful & eMpowering - Do we find a way to make the learning meaningful to our kids, and do we create learning opportunities that empower our kids to make their own meaning of what  they learn. 
  • Attainable & Applicable - Do we stretch our kids to reach attainable short-term goals along the way, and do we allow our students to apply what they learn in predictable and unpredicatable situations.
  • Results-Oriented & Real-World - Do our learning tasks yield tangible results that student can use to drive their next steps in learning, and does our learning apply to real-world that our students know and understand.
  • Time-Bound & Targeted - Does our learning optimize time and give kids a clear target to shoot for at all times?
The best part of my reason to write this post was this video that I found at the end of the second article.  From the perspective of a student, the video clearly articulates what kids need in order to be confidently motivated to learn. 

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