This is a guest post by Troian Robinson, a creative online writer, entrepreneur, coach, and journalist. He works with many interesting public sources and magazines specialized in discussing new technologies, blogging techniques, social media innovations and educational modern councils.
A Gallup poll shows that most students begin their school careers excited and engaged. Unfortunately, that changes as time goes by. By the time they reach high school, many describe themselves as being bored or tired. They simply aren’t engaged in the classroom. Because of this, they often don’t feel motivated. They simply tune out and put in the least effort possible.
So, what does it take to get kids truly engaged in the learning process? The answer lies in these 10 strategies.
1. Use Data to Gain Insights and Let That Drive Your Decision Making Process.
Start by collecting data on students as individuals and the class as a whole. This data can be collected from a variety of sources. These include:
- Formative And Summative Assessments
- Standardized Test Results
- Individual And Group Assessments
- Data From Cumulative Files
When teachers have this information they can use it to create the most effective classroom experiences for every student. This data can reveal information about potential learning problems, family difficulties, and other struggles.
Conversely, it can also help educators identify talents and interests. Lessons, projects, assignments, even seating arrangements can be customized according to that information.
2. Give Lessons a Real World Context.
Some students are happy to learn for the sake of learning. However, most are not. Further, those that only feel that way about subjects that are interesting to them. For the rest, the best approach is to try and frame lessons in a real-world context.
Yes, that does mean answering the ever-present question, ‘When will we ever use this in real life?’
Teachers can do this by providing concrete examples in their lessons using scenarios that students can relate to.
For example, learning to calculate the total square inches of a rectangle on a piece of paper is fairly meaningless. On the other hand, if students can imagine a scenario where they needed to calculate the square footage of their bedrooms in order to design a really cool space, that becomes much more relevant to them.
3. Let Students Choose How to Learn.
Whenever possible, especially when it comes to independent work, students should be given some choice in how they choose to work.
Students learning about aerodynamics, for instance, could be given the option to complete a homework assignment by choosing between building a model, listening to a podcast on the subject, writing a brief report, or interacting with an online simulator.
4. Engage in 20% Time.
This is also called personal education or genius hour and is used by companies like Google and in the classroom.
Basically, participants are allowed to work on projects of their own creation for an hour each week. In the classroom, teachers can apply this principle by allowing students to spend time working on short duration projects of their choosing.
While many students will easily be able to find relevant topics to explore for their projects, others may need some assistance. Teachers can help by creating a list of varied subjects to be studied. However, it is important that students be allowed to choose how they will pursue their passion projects as well as how they will present them.
5. Build Relationships With Your Students.
Students will always feel more motivated and engaged when they believe their teacher cares about them and is invested in their lives.
Teachers can foster positive relationships by noticing when students are feeling up or down, remembering important details about students’ lives, and simply asking them how they are doing.
Teachers can also personalize relationships by sharing information about themselves. For example, they can share their hobbies and interests. The more students and teachers can relate to one another, the better the student is likely to perform.
6. Give Detailed Praise.
In an interview with NPR, Psychology professor Carol Dweck discusses why students shouldn’t be told that they are smart or talented.
Generic praise like this contributes to a fixed mindset. Students believe that whatever talents they have can’t be changed, whether that’s good or bad. It also tends to mean that only the high performing students are going to receive praise.
After all, how often is a student told how smart he is after he earns a C-?
Instead, teachers should give praise based on effort and progress. Rather than telling a student their drawing is pretty, they might be congratulated on their use of bright colors and the amount of improvement they’ve shown since their first project. This kind of praise reminds students that their efforts matter, and that they can continue to grow.
7. Give Them Autonomy.
There is so much of a student’s day that is out of their control. It can be frustrating, and can seriously cut into their motivation. One way to counteract this is to give them autonomy whenever possible. In fact, autonomy is one of the most important factors in whether or not students find a learning experience satisfactory.
In order to encourage autonomy, teachers can have students participate in setting goals for themselves. Allow them to choose learning resources such as RewardedEssays. Give them reasonable control over their daily routine. Also, simply encourage them to take ownership of their own education.
8. Give Feedback During Lessons, Not Just After.
Anyone who’s ever been blindsided by a negative, annual performance reviews knows how devastating that is. Unfortunately, this is something students often experience as well.
Imagine writing an important report, confident that you understand the subject matter. Then, after all your hard work you receive a failing grade and a note about everything you’d done wrong.
It’s very important that teachers track how students are performing, and communicate with them throughout the learning process. Students shouldn’t be informed that they are falling behind only when they receive their grades.
9. Encourage Them to Use Their Devices.
While device usage in school should be managed properly, outright bans can seriously eliminate some great opportunities to create engagement in the classroom.
Yes, devices can be a distraction, or be used to cheat. On the other hand, devices can also scan QR codes in classrooms that have been equipped with augmented reality technology.
They can be used to do quick research for in-class projects, and to take notes. They can even be used to access educational apps. This includes assessments. Allowing device usage in the classroom can also be an extrinsic motivating factor.
Students today are used to constant connection, not just with one another, but the world around them. They know that they are better able to access information on their devices. They are more comfortable using their devices as well. Not allowing them to use them can seem unfairly punitive.
10. Be Empathetic to Boredom.
When children express boredom, especially in the school setting, they are frequently treated as if they are exhibiting some sort of character flaw. In other cases, the attitude is that it simply doesn’t matter if students are bored. They simply must learn what they must learn.
The problem is that a large number of dropouts cite boredom as their primary reason for leaving school.
In addition to using the strategies above, teachers can simply show empathy for students who are bored. This along with the assurance that lesson or even class itself will eventually pass can stave the flight instinct that boredom often creates.
Whether or not students are motivated and engaged is an extremely important factor in whether or not they will succeed in school. In fact, for some students, it determines whether or not they will complete or continue their education.
The ten strategies outlined here are ideal for ensuring all students remain engaged in and excited about the learning process.