Motivating students is one of the most difficult challenges for any faculty member, but lighting the fire is critical to ensuring active, dynamic classes. Alice Cassidy, PhD, principal of In View Educational and Professional Development and a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, has devised a four-step process to motivate students for a more stimulating class for students and faculty alike.
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Teaching and Learning
One of the biggest concerns that faculty have about using small groups involves the contributions of individual members and whether some in the group are riding on the contributions of others. These freeloaders, who are mostly known in the literature as “social loafers,” are assumed not to be contributing because they are lazy and happy to have others doing the work. Students share this concern about nonproductive group members. They regularly list it as one of the main reasons they don’t like to participate in group work.
Promoting reflection is a goal endorsed by many faculty. They believe that students need to develop skills that will enable them to look at a piece of work they produce or an aspect of their professional practice and make accurate judgments about it. It’s not an easy skill to acquire, and practice is essential to its development. If teachers are giving students opportunities to reflect, they need to be able to assess how well students are reflecting and provide feedback that deepens the students’ skills.
“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.”
– A. Chickering and Z.F. Gamson, “Seven principles for good practice,” AAHE Bulletin 39 (March 1987), 3-7.
And what in the world might a Google jockey be? In a first-year seminar on environmental sustainability, the Google jockey was a student who surfed the Web for material related to the discussion topic or lecture and then displayed that material in real time to the rest of the class. In this case, the student was a senior biochemistry major described in the article as “bright” and “engaged.” But don’t rule out this interesting strategy if you don’t have this kind of student preceptor at your disposal.
Have you ever wondered what motivates students to come to class without reading and studying the assigned chapter? You are not alone! Faculty members across the nation are becoming increasingly challenged by students’ lack of dispositions that enhance learning. Every discipline has learning standards and achievement expectations that help drive students’ success. However, such expectations do not equal success. It is the motivation to pursue excellence, a work ethic that reflects the determination to solve problems, the attention to the smallest details, and the desire to be the very best that distinguishes students who make a difference in their given professions.
If unprepared students and student motivation are two of your biggest teaching challenges, you’re not alone. They scored number one and two in the annual Faculty Focus reader survey conducted earlier this year.
“I don’t really have any diversity issues in my class because all of my students are white.”
“I have a lot of content to cover, so there’s really no time to address multiculturalism.”
Diversity, once largely centered on race and ethnicity, has evolved over the years to include a broad range of personal attributes, experiences, and backgrounds, each interlocking to create one’s social identity.
Let’s see a show of hands by those who work at institutions that have developed a comprehensive risk management plan related to service learning and civic engagement. Keep your hand up if you can quickly locate a copy of that plan. And keep your hand up still if you’ve attended a formal training session regarding the risk management plan. Anyone?
How many times have you provided feedback in the margins of students’ papers, only to find that you’re providing the very same feedback on the next set of papers? As a new faculty member, I was left dumbfounded by this experience. I couldn’t understand why my students continuously made the same errors and why my feedback did not improve their papers. I was also surprised by the number of students who requested meetings to discuss why they felt their papers warranted a higher grade. My colleagues assured me that I wasn’t alone in these experiences, but I knew there had to be alternatives to this unproductive cycle.