Magazine article Techniques

Engage Me!

Magazine article Techniques

Engage Me!

Article excerpt

THE NEWS MEDIA WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE THAT MILLENNIALS ARE motivated solely by praise and technology, but I have found in 22 years of teaching that the vast majority of students crave being valued as individuals within the classroom community: They just need a bit of reflective motivation.

Intrinsic motivation will produce higher outputs, and it creates self-motivated individuals with growth mindsets. Extrinsic motivation, however, produces only a temporary increase in output and attention. With reflective practices, educators can find the right motivation to move academic mountains.

Building Grit

When students are intrinsically motivated, they are driven by personal satisfaction, knowing they've given their all and done an assignment well. Fostering intrinsic motivation begins with setting a high educational standard for work in our learning community. In my classroom, I emphasize the professional standards of completeness and execution. Before a student turns in any test, I ask two questions: "Do you have any blanks?" and "Did you write in complete sentences?" If the student answers no to either question, he returns to his desk to fill in the missing content.

These two basic questions convey my expectations for completed work, and it usually takes the student returning to his desk only once in order for his efforts to fall in line with my expectations. Asking these questions-which I rarely have to do beyond the first quarter-helps them to understand that it's not about disappointing me with an incomplete piece of work, but about disappointing themselves. Over time, students begin to grapple with and grow in the practice of not accepting or handing in anything but their best effort.

Tackling Large Projects

For larger projects and CTSO entries, I ask each student when they're turning in their work, "Is this your best work?" So, for instance, if Melissa says no, she and I will have a discussion on what she would do differently or what she believes she needs to do to create a better project. If her personal reflection shows depth of critique, she may turn the project in the next day, incurring a small penalty.

For smaller projects, during the construction phase I will have the students go through their rubrics point by point and list on a sticky note what they would do differently or what they would add to their project to make it even better. After reading the notes, I am able to address the students' direct learning concerns in class the next day. More often than not, it is a technical skill that the student had trouble with, like inserting a chart, formatting a picture or documenting a source-skills that I can easily use another student to teach or give a class demonstration to fill that learning gap.

When the projects are returned after being graded, students get the chance to change their project to include their feedback and my own. They may then turn it back in and receive half credit added to their grade. This process pushes students to a new level of success on their next project. For most of my students, they realize if they would have spent 10 more minutes on their project or asked more questions in the construction phase, their project would have been easily elevated to the professional level. Once students are regularly performing at the professional level, they will not accept anything less from themselves.

Never Accept "I Don't Know"

In discussion or Q & A sessions, I will not accept an answer of "I don't know. …

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