2 Questions to Unlock Motivation & Change Mindsets

It was my last semester of college. “Senioritis” had fully kicked-in.  I was ready to graduate.

It was also the first day of EAD 315, “Student Leadership Training.” Waiting for class to start, I was focused on the friends I was meeting after class. The instructor began. He asked us to move our desks into a “U” formation. This annoyed me even further.

motivation and mindset

It wasn’t after graduation that I realized the importance of engagement.

What happened next, however, surprised me. He didn’t pass out his syllabus like every other instructor. He began with two questions…

First, “What do you want to get out of the class?” Going around the circle, everyone gave the same answer:

  • “I want to get a good grade.”
  • “I want a 4.0”
  • “I need a good grade so I can graduate.”

Next, “Why did you take this class?” Once again, answers were the same.

  • “I heard this was an easy way to get a good grade.”
  • “My counselor said this would be an easy class.”

This was the most diverse class I ever had; my classmates ranged from freshman to seniors. They were from several different countries. They represented a wide range of economic backgrounds. Naturally, I expected equally diverse answers.

Instead, I was suddenly aware… we only cared about the final score. We didn’t care about learning. This class was even teaching a valuable skill, directly applicable to our lives and future careers.

So, Why Did We Only Care About the Grade?

Our mindset was “fixed” on a result, an outcome… a piece of paper known as a “diploma.”  School was about getting a grade. It was not about learning. But, EAD 315 turned out to be the best class I’ve ever had!

The instructor clearly knew… by addressing the elephant in the room, he could change our mindset. By the end of the semester, we didn’t care about our grades anymore. We had become engaged in the topic and with each other. We were learning. And we loved it!

So, How Did He Change Our Mindset?

His mindset made the biggest difference. We sincerely felt he enjoyed being with us; he often said our class was his favorite part of the day. He helped us connect the topics to our past experiences and think about future possibilities.  He asked us questions about ourselves, allowing us to share with one another. As a result, we became connected with our peers. We looked forward to seeing each other every day.

Each of these elements created a positive, upward spiral. He gently guided us to a “growth mindset.” He helped us find the value –and the joy—in learning again.

Engagement Is the Key to REAL Learning!

When we were all focused on “getting a good grade,” we were clearly NOT motivated to learn. That changed as we were drawn in to the topic, our instructor, and each other. I discovered that engagement is the key to transforming motivation for students.

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing a mini-series addressing MOTIVATION, the #1 concern we hear from educators and parents! Our focus will be on simple perspectives and strategies for encouraging engagement and building natural, intrinsic motivation.

The mini-series will be available, here, as each article is published.



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