Education Opinion

Excitement Equals Excellence: How Educators Can Rile Up Student Motivation

By Matthew Lynch — July 20, 2016 2 min read
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No matter what model is used in managing a classroom, no matter what kind of curriculum structure is implemented, one of the biggest factors in student success is how engaged they are in the learning process. Put simply: student motivation equals student excellence.

However, one of the pitfalls in motivating students is that teachers become too fixated on curriculum. Teachers are afraid that when students fall behind the set curriculum, it will be reflected on external examinations. Encourage your students to be energetic and to find learning experiences interesting, satisfying, and sometimes challenging. Your goal as the teacher is to prepare students for their later lives, to educate and guide them for further learning and fulfillment.

Most of us have been in a class we found boring, and our mind either wandered, or we started dozing off. Most of us can probably also think of a situation when the whole class, teachers, and curriculum came together to create a perfect harmony, when students couldn’t wait to learn and teachers couldn’t wait to teach. These situations usually lead to interactive, real learning.

The challenge for teachers to make the classroom learning interesting and fit the curriculum has always existed. Education philosopher John Dewey was a pioneer in this topic. Dewey promoted the idea that school learning should relate to skills and knowledge that will be useful for life outside of school, advocating that students would have a better learning experience by relating the two different worlds, which in turn motivates further learning.

Dewey believed that a classroom of passive students, with the teacher simply feeding the knowledge, was ineffective, and that a mutual effort was necessary for an optimal learning experience. Dewey suggested that the prevention of classroom misbehavior, and the encouragement of student participation, had to have a link between a student’s classroom learning and current interests and experiences. This suggestion does not mean that Dewey disregarded school curriculum in support of individual learning. His suggestions and examples are summed up here:

  • Students should help teachers select specific reading assignments after they get a clear idea about the goals of the class.
  • Students should be able to decide on and work on topics that are of personal interest.
  • Teachers should be open about learning from students while bringing their own experience and interests to the class.
  • Students should gain in-depth knowledge by participating in the world away from the classroom.

As you can see, such classrooms will have plenty of flexibility. Although teachers should have plans to meet the goal for the whole class, there should be enough flexibility to facilitate individual students’ goals. This approach will facilitate student willingness to learn effectively. Students do not merely memorize, but gain the advantage of understanding and take the learned skills with them for the rest of their lives.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.