One of the continuing challenges teachers face is engaging of students in meaningful learning experiences. Too often the learning outcomes and standards stipulated by the education system is not what students find fun or relevant. With this in mind, as teachers, we must bridge the gap between required content and what is meaningful and relevant to students’ lives.
One way to have students make the connection between content and find value in learning is to give them ownership of the process through Project Based Learning (PBL). When students are allowed to make decisions on what they are learning and how they are learning it, they become invested in the outcome more and actively engaged in the learning. PBL allows students to determine the way they want to demonstrate mastery of content, whether it is a presentation, a model, or some other method. This enables them to not only determine the outcome but to see how the content relates to the world in which they live, as well as giving them control of the learning process.
Another way to help students learn to value learning is to incorporate technology into their learning. One tool that works well along with PBL is the use of WebQuests. WebQuests are predesigned Internet scavenger hunts that allow students to choose from pre- selected websites to read and learn to complete academic tasks. This could include use of graphic organizers or other structured student centered learning activities that help students learn content and find relevance through the use of technology.
Expand on the use of PBL and WebQuest, by creating career exploration research assignments using PBL and WebQuest to allow students to explore the skills they will need for their chosen future careers. By using PBL and WebQuest to demonstrate skills needed to enter students’ chosen careers, you allow them to personally explore and identify the connections between content and their chosen careers. The key here is the student takes ownership of the learning that is structured by the teacher.
Allowing students to see how the content they are learning transfers into future careers through guest speakers can facilitate interest and engagement from students. Exploring potential corporate and community partnerships that are willing to come into the classroom and share experiences with students can be a powerful motivator. Although finding willing partners can be time consuming, it is such a powerful tool to motivate students, and it is worth every invested minute of effort to build these partnerships.
Expanding on the power of corporate and community partnerships, another powerful motivator to engage students in learning is through the development of internships. Working with partner organizations, in creating summer or temporary internships for students who demonstrate mastery of content. This can be a powerful motivator to engage them in learning. Furthermore, it also provides them with real world application and job experiences.
Motivating passive students can be a real challenge for teachers, but it is not an impossible task. The key is to help students take ownership of their learning, through generating interest and engagement. Utilise all available resources to make students active participants. This will lead to them becoming active participants instead of unattached recipients when it comes to their learning.