Let's Stop Motivating Our Students
ASCD's Annual Conference 2010 is underway in San Antonio, Tex., and here at the Whole Child Blog we'll be providing you with summaries of sessions that tackle whole child themes. First up is ASCD author Bob Sullo's session, "The Motivated Student," which might actually be a bit of a misnomer. Sullo began his session by saying that we need to stop motivating our students because motivating is a form of control. Instead, we need to engage and inspire students.
So how do we do that?
- Build positive relationships. Exhibiting enthusiasm exclusively for the subject matter is only going to reach the kids who are intrinsically interested in that subject matter; relationships are essential for engaging all the other students in the material. Unsurprisingly, research shows learning improves in the presence of positive relationships.
- Create relevant lessons. When students perceive something as important and relevant to them, they are much more likely to give it their full attention, creating the conditions for maximum achievement. Demonstrating relevance is especially important with adolescents who are in the developmental stage of identity formation.
- Set realistic expectations. Students are most compelled to put forth sufficient effort to learn when they believe that success is within their grasp. When students can't succeed even when they try, they typically seek power in less responsible ways, such as disrupting the class or adopting an "I don’t care" attitude. Every student deserves the chance to be successful and one way of ensuring this is to grade kids based on their own growth.
- Create a needs-satisfying classroom. Students have five basic needs: belonging/connecting, power/competence, freedom, fun, and survival/safety. If these basic needs are being met, students are less likely to act out and more likely to be engaged in learning. Not every single classroom activity needs to meet every single need. But during a block of time, teachers should implement a plan that provides students with a reasonable chance of having these needs met.
- Teach students to self evaluate. Self evaluation fosters decision making, creates an atmosphere of collaboration, and invites kids to take ownership of their learning.