Student Motivation: “Only 25% of My Students Are Motivated!”
“Only 25% of my students are motivated! The rest don’t care about anything. They don’t respond to anything.”
Vivian -a veteran teacher- shared this concern in a recent consulting call. Vivian teaches students with a very low socio-economic background. But, her concern is echoed by teachers and parents all over the country.
Student motivation is our greatest crisis in education! It is a dire concern in all settings, across all socio-economic boundaries.
Vivian is using SOAR® with her students. So, I asked if she had covered the strategies that are most popular with students; the most “hands-on” strategies. She verified that she had tried them, but said her students just didn’t CARE.
That was the key word…CARE!
So, I then asked, “What about the ‘How Are You Smart?’ section?” This section is the first in our program. It teaches students the concept of Multiple Intelligences. It includes a few interactive activities. Vivian’s entire demeanor changed as she responded enthusiastically…
“OH! They loved it! The kids that needed it the most got the most out of it! It was very powerful. They were so excited!”
Ah ha…she was on to something! She came to life when she answered that question; she was excited! She KNEW she had reached the soul of many students with that topic.
If you are not aware, the theory of Multiple Intelligences was developed by Harvard professor, Dr. Howard Gardner. He believes that human beings are capable of at least eight different forms of intelligence, each with many viable career avenues. However, traditional schoolwork and assessments typically only address two of those intelligences, math and language.
The concept of Multiple Intelligences helps students understand that there are many more dimensions to their intelligence than simply the results they generate in school. Students’ change dramatically when they expand beyond the narrow focus of “schoolwork” and start viewing themselves through the MULTIPLE Intelligences lens. I’ve seen that conversion hundreds of times. Obviously, Vivian had a glimpse of it, too.
I suggested that Vivian forget about everything else for a while. “You can’t get anywhere if they don’t care about their future or even SEE a future. If I were you, I would spend all of your energies talking about their intelligences, strengths, and how they CAN make a difference in this world! THEN, you might have some luck with study skills.”
She loved this and even took it a step further. She decided to change the focus of her weekly meetings with individual students. “Instead of asking, ‘Why didn’t you do this or that?’ I’m going to ask, ‘What’s good about you? What are your intelligences/interests? How can you make a positive change?’”
Take a moment to imagine yourself in a similar position as her students…
Imagine if your boss or administrator barked at you all of the time, “Why didn’t you do this? Why can’t you do that!?” Now, imagine that same person asking you the more compassionate questions that Vivian developed? Which will be more likely to motivate YOU?
Vivian was definitely on to something positive, but I warned her that it might take a while before her students loosen up; they’ll need to verify the new change of pace is not just a fluke. However, once she establishes trust with her students, she will see a major difference!
I challenged her to flip her numbers around so that 75% of her students care and have positive attitudes. She was excited and definitely up for the challenge!
Here’s to empowering our students for success!
– Susan Kruger Winter, M.Ed.
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