Monday, July 13, 2015

Reflections on Motivating Students

I recently read the post "How to Motivate Students: Research-Based Strategies" from Peter Pappas. I just love that blog because I learn so much, and I am able to think through a lot about my courses with just an ounce of wisdom from him. Basically, in this post, he reviewed some relevant research and found that the following four "Dimensions" were necessary for students to be motivated:
·         Competence — The student believes he or she has the ability to complete the task.
·         Control / Autonomy — The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.
·         Interest / Value — The student has some interest in the task or sees the value of completing 
·         Relatedness — Completing the task brings the student social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a classroom or other desired social group or approval from a person of social importance to the student.
I started thinking about how I am creating opportunities for my students to experience these "dimensions" … it also made me think of Rocky Balboa and his trainer, Mickey... didn't Balboa strive for these 4 dimensions in Rocky I? =) 

1.       Competence: What opportunities do I provide my students so that they feel they are able to complete the task?
 I have discovered that I am too helpful to my students, and I thought that was good teaching. Instead, research shows that students are more motivated when they feel more able, not necessarily because I am around giving them all the samples and answers. How can I provide tools to my student writers and let them solve the problem and decide what works best for them and still create an effective and clear essay? The "Writing Help/ Resources" Page on their e-folio template is now revamped to try to create this dimension. When I first created this template, I had a list of resources as links copied on this page; I've deleted those and now left it up to them to fill that page over the course of the semester, but I think I will assign specific helps to look for and possibly have them present their writing helps as a group.

2. Control/ Autonomy: How do I foster autonomy in my students? 
I think I've taken a step in the right direction towards student autonomy by the reflection assignments in the Writing Process we use. I rewrote the assignment with questions that hit key parts of meaningful reflection, like discovering patterns and application. If students are more mindful of their writing choices, they may feel more in control over their writing in future essays. I also stumbled across this list of reflective questions from Edutopia; I've selected 10 questions from this list that will prepare my students for their Writer's Workshop/ Conference appointments and hopefully help to create a reflective dialogue. 

3. Interest/ Value: Did I create assignments that my students will see as valuable
My reason for creating a "career-focused" e-folio was to make it a valuable assignment to my students. I, in all honesty, don't think students in Comp I see the value of a writing e-folio. They may see that later when they are trying to pull together a cover letter, but at that moment, in my class, I need them to see the assignment as serving a bigger purpose. Many instructors are now publishing student work as ibooks as a means to foster that interest/ value. I am interested in this, but a semester may be too short to get that done (I have to read much more on this). 

4. Relatedness: Are the assignments bringing social rewards? 

I've given this some thought, and I think social rewards should be outside the classroom for them to truly count. If a student feels connected to like-minded individuals outside the class, it makes more of an impact because it wasn't an obligatory relationship (as in, "for a grade, you must comment on each other's blog/ post"). I thought about using blogs to get those "social rewards" by having students follow and comment periodically on a blog that is outside of class, then see what relationship develops between that external blogger and my student. Perhaps the outside blogger will show interest in my student's thoughts. Three of their four major writing assignments eventually end up on their career e-folios anyway, so their writing now has a legitimate external audience.  Also, I've thought about having my students share their career e-folio with a mock-employer for feedback. That very well may bring very relevant motivation.

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