The Trending Prof

Anita Woods Ph.D., University Educator
Motivation- Who’s Job is it?

Motivation- Who’s Job is it?

How do you motivate in the classroom? While as a student, there were a number of tactics that were practiced by my educators. Some of these were motivating, and many were not (and probably weren’t intended to be motivating). As an educator, I do believe that I do need to be motivating however it is not enough.  Students need to be motivated themselves. Do my attempts in the classroom to make lectures interesting, relatable, entertaining, clear and well organized help? Hopefully.  Are they enough? I don’t think so. Because no matter how much I try, there is always a percentage of my class that are not motivated. They sit on their computers and watch videos on YouTube, they only do the bare minimum of the work required in the course and they just don’t seem reachable.

I have been thinking a lot about motivation. Can we help these seemingly unreachable students? It breaks my heart when I go through my class roster and I see these low performing, seemingly unmotivated students.  A few years ago, a colleague showed me this TedTalk and it got me thinking about this problem. Check it out here.

How I would love to get students to stop narrowing their focus and memorizing for the grades alone. I would love to see them explore with creativity and curiosity around the subjects that they are studying. However, when we continue to test in ways that are strictly facts centred, I see how I have actually been contributing to extinguishing learning and creativity. This has led me and a colleague to try and develop strategies and assignments in the classroom that potentially stimulate the creativity that we are looking for, without stifling the students by evaluations that are narrow even though evaluating the level of content absorbed is also important. So far, it looks like our attempts are promising. My colleague, Dr. Jay Loftus will be presenting some of our findings at the Online Learning Consortium conference in Orlando, Florida on October 30th.  Since I am not yet back to work from my maternity leave, I will be tweeting and potentially responding to questions by proxy. Although I’m sad to not be able to attend this conference as well, I know he will represent! We don’t have all the answers but it has certainly shown me how important changing evaluations are and this is just one step we can help in the area of student motivation.  More about our research study will be posted here soon (and hopefully a link to our accepted manuscript)!





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