Are your students performing at their best in your class and completing all learning activities on time? Do they always want to be involved in class discussions, eagerly participating in the conversations while demonstrating what they have learned from the assigned reading? Or do you have a typical mix of students, some excelling and others struggling to stay motivated and engaged in class?
In a traditional lesson, the motivation of the students can be observed. In contrast, online teachers need to pay attention to other cues and develop conditions within a learning management system that are conducive to learning. Some educators believe that helping students that cannot be seen is not possible, especially with a quality like motivation that cannot be visually assessed in a virtual environment. However, a student’s level of motivation influences all aspects of their engagement, from their engagement in class, to their participation in discussions, to the completion of learning activities such as written assignments.
With the many demands placed on an online teacher, instructional management can become a primary focus and include tasks such as attendance, feedback, acquisition of instructional materials, and development of instructional presentations or posts. It can then become quite easy to overlook a student who gradually withdraws from the lesson until it is too late. This includes spotting a student who lacks self-motivation or doesn’t know how to keep it up when they’re feeling discouraged, frustrated, or challenged.
While students are expected to be naturally self-directed as adults, this does not mean they are equipped for the many demands expected of them as students. For this reason, a trainer must be prepared to identify their needs and have motivational strategies to support them.
It is possible for a teacher to gauge the level of student engagement in a class by the number of times they have posted responses to the discussion threads and the amount of effort they have put into their writing assignments. However, this does not necessarily mean that one can estimate exactly how motivated the students are when trying to complete their work.
This is because motivation is an internalized state and challenges are acknowledged by statements such as “I’m not sure I can do this” or “This is too hard” or “I didn’t expect to have to do this”. ” – anything that leads to a student deciding to abandon, quit, or eventually drop out of the course or his or her study program. A teacher will know this is happening when he has developed open communication with his students and they are therefore willing to share their frustrations and concerns.
When students are struggling in their lessons, it can be easy to initially assume that they are not trying hard enough, not using the feedback provided, have not read the materials assigned, or for a number of other possible reasons – without being able to to pinpoint exactly what they are experiencing. At the beginning of the lesson, most students have the greatest enthusiasm and a sense of hope for a new beginning, even if there is an intrusion of fear or apprehension.
When a student attempts to attend class it will determine how long their excitement lasts and there are many factors that can impact negatively including lack of academic ability, feedback they don’t accept or understand, a topic that doesn’t either is difficult to understand or doesn’t seem relevant to her life or gets a grade she feels she shouldn’t have deserved. This ultimately leads to a drop in performance that may not be recognized intentionally, or even consciously, until addressed by an instructor.
5 ways to energize and motivate your students
Teachers may not always know exactly why students are struggling, but at the heart of most problems is a willingness to keep trying and work towards continued self-development, even if it requires them to acquire new knowledge or skills. What teachers can do is develop a set of proactive teaching strategies that are inherently encouraging and support student experimentation and progress.
The following five methods have been implemented in my own teaching practice and I have helped coach online faculty through my work with faculty development.
#1. Build productive relationships. While this should be self-evident for any class, whether it’s traditional or online, the relationship with the students is always important. This can directly affect their ability to ask for help when needed and this can alert the trainer to potential problems. But building this type of relationship in a virtual environment isn’t easy, and a course that lasts just a few weeks can make it even harder.
How a relationship begins is tied to an instructor’s attitude, and it continues with an ongoing intention to be helpful and approachable. Students need to know that their teachers care about them.
#2. Manage your communications carefully. All forms of communication that trainers have with their students are important and must be handled with care so that the intent of the message is clear and the tone is not likely to be perceived negatively.
When responding to a student, whether by email or post in the classroom, it should not be rushed or when an emotional response is felt. The reason this is so important is that a negative interaction can be demotivating for a student and a number of these types of interactions can cause a student to disengage from the lesson.
#3. Be present, available and accessible. If students are to stay engaged in class and do their best, they need to know that their teacher is ready to help them whenever they need help. This does not mean that an instructor has to be on call at all times or answer questions as they are posted; However, there must be an established pattern that students can rely on.
I found it helpful to have multiple ways to contact me, including email, instant messaging, weekly office hours, sharing my phone number if students need immediate help, and posting a thread of questions in the classroom. This allows me to connect with students and it can be very motivating for them to know that I am approachable.
#4. Help ensure students are adequately prepared. I have found that inadequate academic preparation can be extremely detrimental to the mindset of new students as they try to navigate the course and the requirements they must meet. Even as established students progress in their degree, they can still struggle with areas of development that can create a mental barrier and ultimately lead to a sense of defeat if not supported.
What I have done is share resources that address the specific developmental needs of the students in the feedback provided, and when I find sources that could benefit the class as a whole I will share them in a separate lesson post. I have found that the more equipped students feel to complete their assignments, the more confident they feel in trying to do this.
#5. Develop and use proactive outreach strategies. It is imperative that a teacher is always aware of classroom conditions and, more importantly, of students who are not actively involved and present in class. Establishing a mental baseline of expected performance can be helpful, and over time an experienced instructor will develop a sense of student engagement.
A discussion thread is one way to see if students are disengaging from class. When I spot a student who doesn’t post news or continues to struggle with their writing assignments, I make attempts to reach out. First I email and try to engage them and if that doesn’t work I call them to keep the student from completely disengaging from the class. I have learned that a personalized approach can go a long way in helping students maintain their self-motivation.
sources of motivation
Most research on motivation points to the sources of motivation, both internal and external. This means that students can be motivated by a sense of achievement (internalized) or a grade (externalized). With limited time to get to know students for a typical online course, instructors may never know exactly what each student’s source of motivation is, or be able to develop techniques to address their individual needs responsibilities, especially administration and teaching in the classroom, require a significant investment of time.
What teachers can do is address self-motivation as a driver of student success and use the methods outlined above to help students feel confident rather than easily discouraged and ready to give up. When teachers bridge the distance and connect with their students, they will see results in the effort they put in and the level of achievement they maintain throughout the lesson. When students feel that someone cares about their progress and is willing to support them in trying to meet the demands of the class, an increase in self-motivation is likely to occur. You have the opportunity to be that someone for your students, and what it takes is showing an interest in your students and being aware of their involvement in the classroom. Not only can your interest in students stimulate their engagement in the classroom, it can transform and stimulate your engagement as well.
Thanks to Dr. Bruce A. Johnson | #Methods #Energizing #Motivating #Students