I also think that children are unmotivated if they think they cannot 'do' the assignment or activity...so I use a lot of teamwork activities...competition seems to be a great motivator as well.
Example: We have a program called 'orchard' and there is a problem-solving game...I show this on the smartboard, have the kids team up with small dry-erase boards, show their solutions...and the team has to come to a consensus...if there is a discrepency among the team, the discussion that they have is priceless!
Providing choice, so that they have some ownership of what they are learning is another motivator...for example, during a math lesson, there may be several stations set up, and at each station there are a few different choices of assignments, levels of problems, etc.
Wow, I never really though about this much but until this subject was posed I might have a solution for you. The solution is called Situational Leadership. Basically I've been managing young leaders, adult and even my boss with Situational Leadership. Several years ago when I landed my first faculty job teaching adult learners at a for profit University I was enrolled in a course called Situational Leadership by Ken Blanchards training and development, Inc..
Situational Leadership as defined based on wikipedia's definition as - "Effective leadership is task-relevant and that the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the maturity ("the capacity to set high but attainable goals, willingness and ability to take responsibility for the task, and relevant education and/or experience of an individual or a group for the task) of the individual or group they are attempting to lead/influence.
In other words, that effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it will also depend on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished.
Basically, I was taught that Situational Leadership is based on the principle that there is no best leadership style. Effective leadership occurs when the appropriate leadership style is matched to an individuals development level or direct behavior on a specific goal or task.
Here's an example; as educators how well do we really know a students developmental level or competence when we first meet them? Not enough information right? In order to answer this question we would need to know the knowledge and skills the individual brings to a specific goal or task; and the individual's motivation and confidence on the goal or task. We usually do this by testing them or assigning them home work to see how well they do on course work. But what if their was another way to do this at the same time by using Situational Leadership techniques. I do not know if anyone has ever done this of Kids but I have a theory based on my experience it would work.
Ok I do not have time to teach an entire class on Situational Leadership so I'm going to post some resources for you to read to get a better understanding what I'm taking about. But here's the basics --
Let's say you are teaching your students how to drive a car for the very first time. Do you give them the keys and say good luck? Of course not. This is called D1 and S1 in Situational Leadership. Meaning, you first determine their Developmental Level and the Situational Leadership level for their directive behavior for driving a car the very first time. As a teacher you would group them as a D1 which means they should have high commitment but low competence to drive a car. In a nutshell, D1 - D4 = Developing to drive a car to Develop to drive a car. More over, you as a educator will need to know which Situational Leadership Style to use during the D1 - D4 levels buy using S1 - S4 leadership styles. For example, an S1 would be like a basket ball coach directing the kids how to shoot the basket ball for the first time. You would use your Situational Leadership Style S1 to direct them how to play basket ball. S1 - S4 = Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating. Well I think I will stop here and directing you to some resources if you decide this is something you might want to investigate further.
Hersey and Blanchard characterized leadership style in terms of the amount of Task Behavior and Relationship Behavior that the leader provides to their followers. They categorized all leadership styles into four behavior types, which they named S1 to S4:
Of these, no one style is considered optimal for all leaders to use all the time. Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation.
The right leadership style will depend on the person or group being led - the follower. The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory identified four levels of Maturity M1 through M4:
Maturity Levels are also task specific. A person might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in their job, but would still have a Maturity level M2 when asked to perform a task requiring skills they don't possess.
A good leader develops “the competence and commitment of their people so they’re self-motivated rather than dependent on others for direction and guidance.” (Hersey 91) According to Hersey's "the situational book," the leader’s high, realistic expectation causes high performance of followers; the leader’s low expectations lead low performance of followers. According to Ken Blanchard, "Four combinations of competence and commitment make up what we call 'development level.'"
In order to make an effective cycle, a leader needs to motivate followers properly.
There is research that shows special education students fall further and further behind for every year that they are placed in special education. One reason is that teachers often "dumb down" the curriculum too much and fail to appropriately challenge students (the key word being appropriately). One thing I do the first day of school, and any time it is needed thereafter, is to tell my students with learning disabilities that they are just as smart, if not smarter, than any other student. I tell them that there is just something in their brain that makes it difficult to show what they know and that it is my job to give them strategies that will help them succeed. I also work hard to try and provide a rigorous environment with plenty of opportunities for success. Believe it or not, the combination of this little speech and the rigor goes a long way in motivating even my most difficult students.
My very favorite professor said that the best way to motivate our students was to get to know them and then get to know them better. Wow, she was so right. Kids will respond and interact best when they know you care. There are some students who still won't budge, but keep at it, they come with lots of baggage sometimes. Give them the space they need, while letting them know they are valued member of the class. Sometimes we are the ones with the issues. Some people don't want to speak or participate. Respect that choice.
I always try to "bond" with my students. I listen to the information they provide over time and ask about whatever they have shared. I ensure that they are successful with their classwork until they become more confident. Then I begin to challenge them more. I praise generously and always encourage them.
I also teach the how to study without help at home.
I try to give them the skills they need to succeed. And I think once they are successful, they can become more motivated.
I to try to bond with the students. I try to let them vent things to make them feel comfortable with me.I also try to give advice and a positive out of what they tell me. Encouragement is the key. Keeping the 6th graders motivated in coming to school. There is not alot of parent support so I try to hit all angles to keep them interested.
Bonding with students is so important. A great prinicpal I once had told me, you have to give respect to get it. We were discussing behavior issues, but I feel it relates to motivation too. Showing students that they have great ideas and thoughts shows them that you respect their thinking and in turn they will respect the new knowledge that you have to offer. I oftern see a big change in students' motivation once they realize that I truly care for them and appreciate what they have to bring to the classroom.
Working with unmotivated students can be quite challenging for educators. First the teachers should know they learning styles of all of the students in the classroom. If the educators knows the spectrum of learning styles the lessons could be differentiated correctly among the students. Secondly, it would assist an educators planning would to understand the multiple intelligence of the students as this will let you know where their strengthen align with their learning styles could enhance their interest in learning. If the structure of learning is more engaging to the students and focused on how they learn, then maybe it could motivate the students to try. As educators I feel we know that we should use a whole child approach to understanding students and we should be able to develop an environment for their progression.
I am a GED Teacher in a correctional facility. I work with both men and women. There are many strategies I use to motivate the unmotivated, many of which are already listed in this blog. I would like to share a story about a completely unmotivated student I had about a year ago in my GED class. I must say he was the most lazy, unmotivated student I have seen in six years of teaching in corrections. He was a relatively good looking, blond hair, blue-eyed mid-thirties man who lacked direction. Obviously, with being incarcerated, he had crossed the line in criminogenic thinking in many areas of his life.
I tried all my motivational ideas, from talking with him, to giving speeches, to giving sanctions to try to get him to work harder and earn his diploma. I made him sit in the front of the room, and went from soother to demander in my efforts to make a difference. Nothing seemed to work, in that his lack of work ethic didn't seem to change. I kept at it for abour four months, continuing to plant seeds of success and goal setting that I'd hoped would land somewhere inside and take root. I finally backed off, both because I was busy and tired. I pretty much wrote him off.
He eventually qualified to test for his GED. His results came back showing he was short on 80 points, and needed to retake reading and writng. He had passed the area of math, though, and for him, that was his first sign of success. He was surprised, and as happy as I had seen him. We worked to re qualify the two areas that he needed, but he was scheduled to be released before I was able to test him again. I set him up to test at an outside agency. I asked the examiner who was to test him to let me know if he showed up, because once released and out from under the umbrella of my control and urging, who knows what would happen? He didn't show up to test. I was disappointed, but not surprised. About a week later, I got a text from my examiner. Believe it or not, my former student actually called and rescheduled the test! Wow! Let's see whether he follows through this time. I was feeling pretty good, but was doubtful he would actually test.
Well, he did test.
I tracked his results, and he passed! His diploma was sent to me instead of him, because the address in the system was not updated to where ever he had moved too. I locked the diploma in my drawer, and wondered if he would ever contact me to have it sent to him. Regardless, I was feeling pretty good about him earning his diploma.
About a year later, he called from another state and left a message, asking if I would return his call.
So I did.
His wife, unbeknownest to me, had been incarcerated in our facility, and saw that I had her husbands name, my former student, on the plaque on the wall that celebrates GED recipients. After released, she told him that he must have passed for his diploma, otherwise Ms. B wouldn't have his name on the plaque.
He didn't believe her, and asked for confirmation when I called him back. He had never contacted the place where he had re tested to see if he had passed or not. He didn't think he had passed. He said he had been looking for a job for some time and was discouraged because the applications all stated that he needed a GED or diploma, and he didn't think he had one.
Well he did. And I must say that was a sweet phone conversation. He actually thanked me for kicking him in the ****, and for all the effort I had made in trying to get him to try.
The best part was his emotion.
So, never give up.
The seemingly unreachable may be reached, although you may never know when or if the seed takes root.
I was lucky enough to find out.
I think a student who has tried to get away with doing the bare minmum of required assignments, May find that they stop receiving the help they need to advance. I do not believe a student's failure is solely the responsibility of The Teacher, and yet I believe that many student's find they have no realistic means of addressing their issues, who may lack real motivation in understanding what must take priority, and have a difficult time in setting goals that will help them reach the outcome of their decisions. Communication can be very difficult for students, when working with the understanding that school is the only available service that may help them. I think some students may become reclusive and find no real outlet for communication about this issue.
I have been following these outstanding ideas and suggestions for motivating the unmotivated for a number of weeks now, and commend all of you for great vision. The information you have provided reinforces the importance of teachers being pro-active in the educational arena, knowing and caring about their students, articulating and carrying out the curricula while balancing about a zillion educational balls in the air at the same time. But, we do it daily and for the most part do a darned good job. This discussion is taking place because we all want to improve on this perennial challenge. My lifetime of classroom exposure isn't going to revolutionize education, but I have found that providing the connection that genuinely says to each person sitting in the classroom that they are important and have worth in society makes an incredible difference in performance. It does not matter what their baggage. It is the sanctity of worth of individuals that can send a powerful message to the entire class. One thing is evident, students even at the elementary level can see through shallowness and insincerity in teachers. So, to me it boils down to being genuinely sincere and honest with your students and showing them through whatever subject you teach that the information does have relevance in their lives.
I continue to struggle on a weekly basis when I look out over a sea of students ranging from ages 19 to 60 and inquire why they think taking my class is important. The answer that is NOT acceptable is "to get a degree." My motivational goal at this point is not to show them how to "beat the system," and just be a warm body sitting and paying for a seat, but rather how it will hit their pocketbooks later in life if they don't absorb the information that can take them to new heights. This concept worked when I was teaching middle school and high school even though the challenge in high school was greater and never-ending. In some cases, we worked just trying to get students not to come to school totally stoned, or to at least come to school, But most of these challenges have been discussed in earlier posts and my thousands of stories are not needed for this venue. Bottom line: sanctity of individual, freedom for students to chose their own path, freedom to succeed and improve their lot in life regardless of what it is, and the bridge that takes them there is the realization on their part that a solid, sound, practical education can lift even the most downtrodden to higher ground.
How do we reach the seemingly unreachable??? I have found that making the lesson relevant is one of the most important keys to success. If we are trying to teach the Pythagorean theorum it might help the student to know that this information is necessary for purchasing roofing material, building stairs, or a skateboard ramp. If you can find a need for the information then there is often a desire to learn the lesson. This type of learning can occur as an outcropping of project based learning. Construction is great for math skills, chemistry is found in cooking, physics is found in music. FInd what is important to the child and often you can leverage the skills needed to be successful and still get the "required" learning across. Years ago (35+) my dad, also an educator, taught poetry using the lyrics of Elton John, the Beatles, Gordon Lightfoot. The music was relevant and the students not only learned but thought my dad was "cool" too. We are only constrained by our own willingness to take a risk.
Wow! Some great responses here.
My suggestion is "curiosity." What is a student curious about? How can teachers make their lessons an "investigation?" Lack of self-efficacy is often due to other factors, too, like emotional issues, fatigue, hunger or mental distress. I know teachers teach and students are supposed to learn, but sometimes teachers need to address underlying issues, redirect the student to resources, mentor and keep positive and encouraging.
Those are my thoughts.
Maybe your questions could include, "what meaning does this course have for you?" "How does it serve your goals as a co-worker, citizen, parent, etc.?"
You might include a contract with them..."If you are here to learn, I am here to guide you in that process. I have the tools, you have the answers."
Make them totally accountable for their own progress..."You may or may not agree with what I am teaching, but I need to know you understand it."
Best of luck with this...
I wonder if having a more positive outlook and what people contribute to the learning process may not add to their success. Believing that formal education is the only tool to success has been shown through reseach not to be the case. Actually, as human beings we are experiencial learners for the most part. The more academics includes experiencial learning, the more students will engage--this is not to say you do not include this in your teaching already. However, teaching is an evolutionary process. Refreshing our teaching skills with new technologies, and communicating with a diverse and ever changing population through popular examples from movies, music and culture engages people in the purpose and meaning of education.
Just my thoughts