Thoughts on Working with Motivation

Our summer administrators book group is rounding into shape, aside from Barnes and Noble’s policy of claiming something is “in-stock” and if there is one copy, yet letting you order 12 without telling you that you’ll only get one. Our first choice was Moral Leadership, but B&N decided to only send us one copy. That’s OK, we’ll share.

So in light of that, we decided to read A Whole New Mind as a group. I’ve read it before, but it won’t hurt to have some face-to-face discussion with my colleagues about the ideas within. In preparing for leading some of the discussions, I decided to dive into some of the work that Karl Fisch did with the students at Arapahoe High School with their wikified research papers. I found this quote from Gus Tuberville, President of William Penn College on sonofrio’s opening page:

For learning to take place with any kind of efficiency students
must be motivated. To be motivated, they must become interested. And
they become interested when they are actively working on projects which
they can relate to their values and goals in life.

How do you find what it is that motivates and interests your students?  What are some methods that work to find out what makes students tick?

When I look at the situations in which I have interacted critically with both students and teachers, I often find it difficult for both parties to tell me what interests them, and further, how it relates to what they teach.  Index cards as they walk into the room at the beginning of the year?  Is that feasible for 120-150 students?  If so, how do you manage that?

Some of the other questions I came up with regarding the first section of the book:

  • Can we train people to think using both hemispheres of the brain?  Is R-Directed thinking something that can be learned?
  • If we ask that our teachers come into this system (the education system, classroom, school environment, etc.) with right-brained skills in addition to the traditional left-brained skills, are we setting them up for failure?
    • this was in the context of looking at how schools haven’t physically changed in over a hundred years.  Those of us in education tend to be successful products of the system, meaning that we did well in the system that we went through, thus we tend to re-create the system we are used to.
    • If that is the case, does it make sense that we hire teachers expecting them to think “outside the box” only to put them back into an environment that is exclusively “in the box?”
  • How do we respond to this statement: “We don’t have time to include R-directed thinking; we are trying to prepare our students for taking these standardized tests (NJASK, SAT, HSPA, etc.)”
  • Does this statement have merit: “The changing world is leaving the SAT behind?”
  • Should these three statements (from page 51) drive the decision making in our building regarding what we are creating with our students?
    • Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
    • Can a computer do it faster?
    • Is what I am offering in demand in an age of abundance?
  • Are we wasting our students’ time by teaching them skills that are irrelevant anymore?  If so, what are they?

Thoughts?  Suggestions?


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Working with Motivation

  1. Great questions! I know that even if we design projects, etc. that students would find relevant, not every student is going to think so. How do you reach them all? Some students I have are hard sells. I teach an environmental class that may be easier to do this with, but my Academic Biology is different. I am considering pre-surveys of students but not quite sure how to manage and use the information.

    Even if you think out of the box, it is lonely there. Everyone is still inside and most are watching with skepticism as tests still rule. I am hoping more and more colleges reject SAT’s. How can we create a revolution from parents and students to reject NCLB? How can the current school culture be abandoned and new pedagogy embraced? Unfortunately, we have to keep our eye on both horizons.

    As this is the 3rd year of tech in my district, I am prepared for this to be the toughest year. Though student feedback has shown they believe they have learned and remember more information, I expect more questioning and distrust in methods. I am following UbD principles and hoping my preparation will allay fears, show sound construct, etc.

    I have always believed we have been wasting student’s time. I was a great student who knew how to play the game. And I taught the way I was taught but always wanted more…always questioned…was always on the soap box… I believe fiercely in what we are trying to do and am frustrated at the current state of school.

    I think a driving question should be: What is truly important today? Can students really leverage information to do what is needed, what is right, and leads us to a better future? Our current and past thinking have not served us well…

  2. Patrick,

    These were my thoughts when we read excerpts from this book with our own administrative group last October:

    I have blogged in the past about creativity, be in from Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, or others– having students develop right brain creativity skills while in school will be helpful to their competitive edge.

    While discussing this issue in our Instructional Council earlier this month, a concern that “we value what we test” and how standardized testing doesn’t leave much room for creativity.

    Behold, I discover the Bowerbird. This species of bird found in New Guinea decorate a perch with interesting objects– berries, beads, clothespins, saliva (yes, saliva) in order to attract female member of the species to mate. The more attractive and creatively decorated the perch, the better chance the male Bowerbird has of landing a mate.

    The ultimate example of using creativity for a formative assessment! If you are not creative enough in your perch, you don’t get the girl. Talk about a pass fail exam!


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