Klea Scharberg

Bob Sullo on Motivating Students

More than a decade into the 21st century, we continue to face education challenges from the last century. To move forward, we must develop knowledgeable learners equipped with the necessary academic, technological, social, and economic skills to compete in the global community.

The ASCD 2011 Annual Conference in San Francisco, Calif., March 26–28, 2011, will engage participants in dynamic, diverse dialogues that lead to bold actions to address the challenges of learning, teaching, and leading.

In this video, ASCD author Bob Sullo suggests that "motivating" students doesn't necessarily mean what we think it means. Instead, try a slightly different approach to unlock students' internal desires to learn.

Stop trying to motivate your kids! It sounds odd, but I think when we're trying to motivate kids, that's really code for "we're trying to control them." And instead, I think we're going to be much more successful if we try to engage and inspire our students. When kids are engaged and they become inspired to learn what it is that we're trying to teach, we'll get so much further than we've gotten to this point.

During his 33 years as an educator, Sullo worked as an English teacher, a school psychologist, an adjustment counselor, and an administrator in the Plymouth Public Schools in Massachusetts. These diverse roles gave him the opportunity to work in both regular education and special education, serving students from prekindergarten through graduation in elementary, middle, and high school.

Currently an education consultant and instructor for the William Glasser Institute, Sullo has provided staff development and parent workshops in more than 30 states. His presentations focus on internal motivation, responsibility, and the creation of a positive environment where students are inspired to produce high-quality academic work. He is the author of The Motivated Student and Activating the Desire to Learn. Visit Sullo's website and connect with him on Twitter @bobsullo.

Comments (1)

James Mac Shane

February 14, 2011

I agree that the understanding of the natural power of student’s internal motivation is the most important nuance in education that is being promoted today. I am writing about what my students taught me in 50 years of teaching at all levels from pre-k thru graduate level and adults. The transition from the historic externally motivated elimination education base that has been our only personal experience is the important psychological problem for teachers. The natural internally motivated intellectual development process that you are pointing out is evolutionary. The scientific base for the natural intellectual development of each individual child begins it’s conscious survival development of choices at the age span of 2 1/2 to 3. The historic belief of teacher control levels of student’s learning which is unavoidably is the result of their life’s choices needs to be understood. As the words teaching, learning and thinking are used it is a delusion of power that Dr. Glasser pointed out. It is not that it is not having any affect. In the present K-12 system each student’s survival history of negative survival life and educational choices is the problem that can only be overcome with some level of therapeutic energy and the teachers respect of each student’s natural potential. That energy only works when the student is able to overcome their history of negative survival choices and be self empowered. There is a human evolutionary dimension to the problems that educators are becoming aware of that is the result of the scientific and technological development of the past 200 years that is the reason behind the change from external to the internal education of children. At the survival level the change if from physical energy to intellectual energy that is the human evolutionary change.

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