No teacher could deny that motivated students learn better. However, we usually see students losing their motivation over the course of each school year, and even worse, as they grow older.
Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. It's natural that a student's intrinsic motivation decline over time. Luckily, extrinsic incentives can increase intrinsic motivation. And that's what we, as teachers, should focus on. Here are three strategies.
Every teacher knows and uses rewards to motivate their students, but the effectiveness may vary among different approaches. Including some randomness in rewarding could be helpful.
The first way of adding randomness is to give rewards on a random basis. According to behavioral scientists, reward following an unpredictable number of behaviors is more effective than reward after a fixed number of desired behaviors. Students are more likely to keep up the desired behavior after the randomized reward because they can feel refreshed about the given challenges and build a sense of achievement. When the reward was fixed, students are likely to "rest" a while before they continue
The second approach is to have some surprise in your reward. Think about popular games. Gamers are usually rewarded with a lucky draw where they will either get a special skill or a piece in a collection. Since there is no guarantee what they will get, they often have more attempts to enter the lucky draw to get what they what. When applying to the educational setting, we may also adopt the idea of luck draw and collection. Students can collect through a lucky draw and when they collected a full set, they can get a prize.
Giving feedback is another thing that was often neglected, or poorly executed by most teachers. Providing encouraging feedback means giving students an explanation of what they are doing correctly and incorrectly, which can improve a student's confidence, self-awareness, and enthusiasm for learning in long run. Through positive reinforcements such as complement or mild criticism, we can avoid the frustration with errors of students with low tolerance and attention problem.
Feedback usually serves as a powerful extrinsic motivation with immediate timing. For example, immediate feedback creates the possibility to correct any error at that moment effectively for students even when the teachers are not nearby. Immediate feedback promotes autonomy and self-learning for students. It is the student who manages to solve the challenges the moment when they encounter questions, making the pace of learning more adaptable to each individual.
There is a number of ways of giving feedbacks within the era of digital and virtual teaching. For instance, by frequently administering formative assessments such as comments in Google Docs, or using student response options like Plickers, Kahoot, or Socrative to get a better sense of the level of learning, teachers, and students can make improvements that will maximize the potential for learning.
Students with a growth mindset believe that one's basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. It was the growth mindset that leads to their future success. So how can teachers help students to cultivate such a mindset?
One experiment gave out the answer. A group of children is asked to solve puzzles, with different levels of difficulty. Some children are praised for their talent, for example, "You are so smart!". Others are praised for their effort, like "You are so hardworking!". It turns out that students who are praised for their talent and smartness are less willing to try out the more difficult puzzles and tend to stay with the easy ones, but the children who are praised for their effort positively accept the challenges.
So as a teacher, we should always focus on the effort they make and praise it, rather than easily saying, "you are so smart". By doing so, students are more willing to step out of their comfort zone to face the challenge and develop a growth mindset.
It is not an easy job to keep students motivated. As we suggesting these three incentives to you, we Fantasktic also put the theory into our practice. On our platform, students are rewarded in the gamified rewarding system and always being praised on their effort. We believe our practice will make a difference!