Monday, September 14, 2009
Morale and Motivation - Mood
Improving student morale and motivation
Paul E. Garrett, Dean of Academic Affairs, ITT Technical Institute, Columbia, South Carolina wrote:
What is the mood of your classroom? Is there an excitement about the subject and an eagerness to move forward? Or do students drag into the room and sit sullenly, averting eye contact with you or their fellow students? Are you one of those teachers who begin the semester with "Look to your left and your right: One of you won't be here at graduation."? I have always believed that there is an element of showmanship in good teaching.
Whether you believe that or not, research has shown that lightening the mood in a classroom increases motivation. We've all shown up for meetings wherein the mood was dull and drab, or even hostile. How much more productive are those meetings where the atmosphere is upbeat and the facilitator kept things on an even keel. Many of the behaviors that add value to the class also improve the mood. Enthusiasm is contagious. So is boredom.
In "Talking about Leaving", a study of why students drop out of science and engineering programs, the authors reported one of the main student complaints was a lack of enthusiasm by their instructor. The students reported that their faculty member didn't have time to answer their questions, but always referred them to the TA. Others said their faculty member came to class unprepared or made them feel like teaching the class was a necessary evil that they had to endure so that they could get back to their research. Keep an eye on the mood of your class.
If necessary, stop the class and address the issue: "It seems that you guys are out of sorts this morning. What can I do to help us get on the right track?" Often the very act of letting the students know you recognize their mood and are willing to work with them may lighten the atmosphere.