The Three Foundational Principles of Student Engagement and Student Motivation Pt3

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In the last couple of posts we have looked at the first two foundational principles of student motivation and student engagement; Autonomy and Mastery.

Today we will look at the third foundation which is PURPOSE.Purpose can be defined as the yearning to do something in the context of something larger than us.

Every teacher regardless of where they teach has been asked at least once in their life the all important question…“When am I ever going to use this in life?” Now as a teacher you might be annoyed that someone would ask you such a question about the subject which you are obviously passionate about, but nether the less it is actually a great question.

We all want to know why we are doing something.  Most of us hate to waste time – especially me (I am one of the most impatient people on the planet!), and all of want to know that at the end of the day that what we are giving our time and attention to will have some benefit to me – and hopefully others.  Students are no different.  They are constantly tuned into W.I.I FM (What’s In It For Me).

Let’s be honest for a minute.  Not everything we teach has some intrinsic value in life or can be applied by every student in the future.  That being said as a teacher is so easy to cater to a student’s desire to have a higher purpose attached to what they are doing.  Here is how I do this in my classroom.

1.  Make sure you know where the content you are teaching fits into the bigger picture of the syllabus.

When you do this you show the students that what they are doing fits into the unit and they need to complete the task because this is the next step on their journey towards completion.  You can also use this approach in skill development.  For example, “If you can successfully complete this task you will know how to answer one of the questions on the test”

2. Attach some value to the task.

We have looked in previous posts about how students are motivated to avoid a pain or make a gain.  So if you are struggling to find some value in the task – assign a value!  A popular example is “If you don’t get the task dome you will have to complete it in your break”.  This is basic classroom management or student discipline but all of a sudden that task has value to the student!

3.  Have a student who understands the content to help a struggling student.

When you do this the student isn’t just learning for themselves but are now learning so they can help another student succeed.  This is one of the greatest culture and value systems you can build in your classroom!

4.  Teach your students to value learning not performance.

There are a large number of studies showing that students perform better when they have a learning goal as opposed to a performance goal.  If we can teach our students to value the process of learning the content takes on a higher value almost automatically.

I would encourage you to go back over and read the last three posts in one sitting and have an overview of how you can increase your student’s motivation and engagement in the classroom which will hopefully have a huge impact on your classroom management.  Take a look at the teaching strategies I have given to you and then get creative according to the age of the students you teach, the ability level of the students you have and your personality.

Let me know how this works in your classroom!

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