Improving student morale and motivation
Paul E. Garrett, Dean of Academic Affairs, ITT Technical Institute, Columbia, South Carolina wrote:
Do the students value the course material? Do they see an immediate, practical application? Or is it something they'll use in two three or four years. The sooner the students can apply their newfound knowledge, the better. Is there a lab with the course? Can you point out how the classroom theory is going to be applied in their labs? Can you build an application into your theory course, or apply it to the world outside the classroom? Are you, as the teacher, enthusiastic about the subject? Or is it something you have to get through so you can get back to your research? If you act bored with the class or topic, that will lower the value to the students. Even if it's not your favorite subject, even if you've taught it a hundred times, even if you see it as an obstacle to your "real'' work, look for ways to make it interesting to you and at the least, make it valuable to the students.
We are a technical school. We teach technical and computer subjects and our students often don't understand why English Composition is important. I explain to them that being able to write an excellent resume or proposal, once mastered, will always be virtually the same, that this will help them write excellent lab reports in their other classes, and that while they will constantly be re-learning the technology, it is their ability to communicate effectively that will have the most impact on their future careers.
If your students' motivation seems to be flagging, before blaming them, take a step back and look at the value the students hold for the subject, their confidence, and the mood of the class. Chances are, if you can improve one or more of these areas, you can improve your students' motivation and improved learning will almost certainly follow.
Seymore, Elaine, and Nancy Hewitt. Talking About Leaving. Boulder: Westview, 1997.
Stolovich, Harold & Erica Keeps. Tellin' Ain't Training. Alexandria, VA.: ASTD, 2003