Society seems to be telling us that standardized tests are what motivate student learning. Research and experience seems to be telling us exactly the opposite. What really can motivate student learning? And how can we encourage students to enjoy learning rather than stifle their desire to learn?
Do difficult tests motivate student learning?
One teacher, James M. Lang realized that by creating difficult tests he was actually causing more cheating in the classroom. In this case, setting high standards and expectations was not the best way to motivate student learning since the students resorted to cheating as the way to do well on the tests rather than even attempting to learn the material. Lang wrote a book called Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty. It is based on his experiences in the classroom and how it is possible to reduce the amount of cheating by changing the way we teach.
Does making predictions motivate student learning?
Another educator, Annie Murphy Paul, proposed that students learn better when they make predictions. Regardless of if the prediction was proven to be correct or incorrect it was the act of making the prediction that spiked the students’ curiosity and interest and therefore motivated student learning as the outcome. If students are asked to consider what might happen in the future, then they are invested in finding out the answer and they actually want to be involved in finding out more.
Does making mistakes improve learning?
Along the same lines of making predictions, there is the common saying that we can learn more from our mistakes than our success. Making mistakes can actually be a positive way to motivate student learning, and will help them learn more than if they never made any mistakes at all. Educators should allow their students to make mistakes as part of the normal learning process. If a student makes a mistake, teachers and tutors should avoid immediate correction. Rather they can help guide the students through figuring out how to correct the mistake and in the process the student will learn from it.
How to take a step back but still facilitate and motivate student learning
Should we as educators take a more hands off approach when teaching? If the hands off approach is a more effective way to motivate student learning, then it is surely something to consider. Educators are still essential in guiding the learning process. However, when we allow students to feel their way along without being corrected too soon we are giving them more opportunities to improve the quality of their learning.
Practically speaking Annie Murphy Paul wrote an article that gives 6 ways to motivate student learning that will make you want to re-think the way most traditional lesson plans are organized. These are steps that can be easily implemented into the classroom or adopted by tutors during one-on-one tutoring sessions as a way to motivate student learning outside of the classroom.
Parents, teachers and tutors all want their students to be empowered and to achieve their full potential. Why not start by considering how we can help motivate student learning with the students we have under our care. If students can be helped to develop a desire to learn then they are on the right track!