Creating an environment that motivates students

Like most of us, students gravitate towards those tasks which they find positive and rewarding, and avoid those they find negative and punishing. given this fact, how can we make our classrooms feel positive and rewarding so that all students will engage themselves fully in the learning activities we provide?

An answer may lie with the work of William Glasser, who has been so successful with delinquent children.

Glasser tells us that in addition to basic physiological needs, we all need love, fun, freedom and power. The research of Jocelyn and Thomas Parish, of Kansas State University, support Glasser’s ideas. The Parishes believe that if a teacher is associated with meeting these needs, then students will be more likely to pay attention, participate and learn.

The Parishes contend also that teachers who foster a caring attitude are those who are approachable and who listen carefully to students. Furthermore, a classroom structure in which students are encouraged to help one another (such as in cooperative learning activities), makes all students feel like they belong.

Allowing experiences of success

Teachers help students acquire a feeling of power or competence by structuring assignments in a way that allows a variety of students to experience success. By offering students a choice in the way they practice a skill, or a choice of the means by which they demonstrate their knowledge of a subject, teachers enable students with different abilities or learning styles to experience success.

Students become partners in the learning experience when they are able to exercise some control over what they do. As a result, they are more eager to attempt tasks they have chosen. (Naturally, choices are limited to those activities that the teacher believes are valuable learning experiences.)

By creating a caring atmosphere, the opportunity to belong and some freedom of choice, a teacher succeeds in making the classroom enjoyable for students. Providing positive feedback by focusing on the strengths of each student and emphasizing their successes, the teacher increases students’ self-esteem. The Parishes conclude that this positive classroom environment will enable students to focus on learning.

“Some Thoughts on Motivating Students” Education Vol. 110, No. 2, p. 199-201.

Published in ERN March/April 1990 Volume 3 Number 2

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