Thursday, February 24, 2011

Making learning relevant , learning by doing

Teachers are often looking for ways to motivate students to be successful in school. Unfortunately they rely on extrinsic motivators like grades or  a little bit better helping kids to redefine their ' possible selves '. Kids are shown that brain size and intelligence is something one can change through effort . So  having a ' growth mindset '  makes one more resilient and helps one to overcome obstacles , setbacks and realize personal aims and goals , therebby realizing ' their possible selves' .

This approach ignores the ' intrinsic value ' of learning and education and just sees school as a stepping stone to higher education, a job , or a diploma.

Kids can be very motivated by these personal aims and goals. But when the goal becomes the sole motivator , there is every  reason why kids will avoid challenging assignments and even cheat in order to get a good grade or diploma.

In a school environment where there is little choice , teachers can still focus on helping kids be intrinsically motivated to learn by showing how the learning is relevant to their lives, interests and needs. In an article quoted below ' Avi Assor ' says that Choice is good but relevance is excellent.

Assor et al, Choice is good , relevance is excellent

'The emphasis on relevance-fostering as an important autonomy-supportive

behaviour is consistent with Ryan and Deci’s (2000; Deci et al., 1996) view concerning

the contextual features that promote the experience of self-determination in schoolwork and other human activities. Thus, self-determination theorists do not necessarily

assume that most school activities should or can be intrinsically motivated (see Deci et

al., 1996). Rather, they view many of those activities as having an extrinsic origin.

However, they also assume that, under autonomy-supportive conditions, those

activities can be internalised, and therefore can be experienced as fairly autonomous

despite their initial extrinsic source.

To foster the relevance of schoolwork for children, teachers need to take an

empathic-active role in relation to their students. This role requires the teacher first to

understand students’ goals, interests and needs, and then to link school tasks to those

goals, interests and needs. The emphasis on an empathic-active approach that aims to

enhance the relevance of schoolwork is consistent with Ryan’s claim that adolescents’

need for autonomy should not be identified with the need for independence, and

certainly not detachment, from parents (Ryan, 1993; Ryan & Lynch, 1989).'

WE need to create a school environment where kids can generate their own choices and are guided by teachers who help them make their learning meaningful and relevant.

So to summarize we need CHOICE and RELEVANCE to foster kid's intrinsic motivation for learning.

But if we take a look of the Deci & Ryan definition of to be self- determined , we see that ACTIONS , and freedom TO DO is important.

' To be self-determined is to endorse one's actions at the highest level of reflection.'

'When self determined people experience a sense of freedom to do what is interesting , personally important and vitalizing'

Too often school is a passive activity , throwing back information when taking ' standardized tests' .

Deborah Meier said – ' teaching is mainly about listening and learning is mainly about talking' - and through the process of collaboration kids can ' construct modern knowledge ' by doing and most important construct their own meaning and relevance. Kids not only Learn by Doing ,  experience and produce learning, but find the activities meaningful and intrinsically motivating. This is why Project Based Learning PBL is the way to go

Project Based Learning - You tube

It is unlikely that teachers can pass on a love for learning in an high stakes standardized testing environment , but at least in the lower grades teachers can focus on real learning and try to make learning relevant to kids . It thus becomes important to share how SDT principles are implemented in the classroom. Here is a recommended blog post by Josh Stumpenhorst.

Resigning from teaching


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