Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thoughts on Motivation and Kids...

My last reflection on Pink's book, Drive, is about how can we use more motivational strategies in the classroom or eliminate some of the demotivating behaviors we use in schools as described by the author. The first topic is about the never-ending debate on the purpose of homework. There are three questions teachers can ask themselves regarding the purpose of a particular homework assignment and how it may affect a student's motivation for completing the task:
1. Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this homework?
2. Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel, engaging task (as opposed to rote reformulation of something already covered in class)?
3. Do my students understand the purpose of this assignment? That is, can they see how doing this additional activity at home contributes to the larger enterprise in which the class is engaged?

Offer a day that you "turn your class over" to a student or group of students. Could you do it? What planning on the students' part would be necessary? Can you imagine the responsibility you'd be putting on the student and how much they would feel valued and respected in your classroom? How often could you do it? What is the old saying on the percentage of knowledge learned when you teach it? 90%? It is more than worth it.

Have students evaluate themselves every nine weeks when you complete report cards. Have them determine proficiency on the essential skills or "big ideas" that were focused on each quarter. Don't forget those work habit grades as well. Self-reflection is tremendously powerful. Speaking from experience...

Praise--use "now-that" rewards rather than "if-then" rewards. Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence. Be specific. Keep each child's praise their own, it is not necessary for others to hear their private feedback. Only praise a student when there is a reason for it, they know when you are being fake. This information is based on the work of Carol Dweck, psychologist.

Help students answer the question, "Why am I learning this?" Why is the information essential for them to learn at that point in time?

Finally, are these new topics? No. Have I read about them before? Absolutely. So why does current research still focus on these topics? Because education has still not fully embraced what science knows is true, but continues to repeat the past. What can break the cycle?
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