The Three Foundational Principles of Student Engagement and Student Motivation Pt2

15 April 2011

crazy teacher

I am yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t wrestle with student engagement, student motivation and classroom management.  The great news is that increasing the motivation and engagement of your students is not rocket science you just need to have a few fundamental principles in place!  Yesterday we looked at the first foundational principle of intrinsic motivation which is autonomy.  You can read some examples here of how I increase the level of autonomy that my students have in the classroom whilst still remaining ‘in control’.

The second foundational principle of intrinsic motivation is MASTERY.

Mastery can simply be defined as the desire to get better and better at something.  Have you ever watched a young person engage with a computer game?  They can sit still and quiet for hours at a time with no concentration problems at all.  Yet place that same student in a classroom for ten minutes and they will tear the place up!  Why is that?

Well the honest answer is that there are a large number of reasons but one of them is that the computer game offers them something that your classroom doesn’t – that is the opportunity to master something.

One of the main differences between your classroom and a computer game is that with the computer game you have the ability to keep trying until you master that level.  As teachers we are just not able to keep going over the same ground waiting for students to excel before we move on.  That being said we can do a few things differently allowing our students to feel like they are mastering the course.

1.  Conduct a pre, during, and post content quiz.

When I do this I make sure I do the following things to ensure the students don’t feel like they are being tested:

  • Make it fun (I’ve tried having key words in a word find, randomly handing out rewards, having the students write the questions, having an opposites lesson where they have to write the anti-answer etc – get creative)
  • Use the same questions for all three quizzes.  The idea is that they get more questions right each time.  If they learn the questions and find the answer then that is great because that is how we work in ‘real life!’
  • Have a grand master ceremony at the end where the students are handed the key to the next level based on the fact that they have learnt more than they originally knew.

2.  Teach your students to value learning not performance.

Studies convincingly show that those students who have a performance goal do significantly poorer than those who have a learning goal.  I will go into more detail about this in a future post – for now just trust me that it is the case.

3.  Every now and then give your students the test before test day or allow them to sit the test again.

Now before you react think about this.  When in life (with the exception of education) do you ever have to prove that you can remember a lot of facts?  In every job we have the internet, reference material, peer relationships, mentors etc.  When you don’t know the answer you go and find a solution.  When you allow your students to know what they need to know you are actually training them for life.

There are a multitude of ways that you can allow your students to become masters in your class – you just need to be a little creative…the results will be well worth your effort.

How have you used mastery to increase your student’s motivation and engagement?

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