How to Create Self-Motivated Learners
Dr. Kathie F. Nunley
One of the most
popular requests I get from schools and teachers is help with classroom
management and dealing with a room full of reluctant learners. I have
always found that if you create the right classroom environment, motivation
and behaviors tend to take care of themselves. So how do you create
a classroom that promotes self-motivation in students? It actually
comes down to three simple student perceptions - choice, competence
and a sense of community.
It starts with
viewing yourself, the classroom teacher, as a leader of people, not
a manager of student behavior. Of course, we need to hold student
accountable for their behavior, but our goal is to inspire self-accountability,
not micro-manage behaviors. Teachers act as leaders when they set
a vision of how the learning environment should look and explain the
learning goals, then allow the students to move along their own path,
within the defined boundaries and timeframes.
This means we
need to give students the perception that they have some control and
choice in the learning process. The easiest way to do that is by setting
a learning goal, then offering assignment suggestions that students
can choose from to reach the goal. One of the fundamental keys to
Layered Curriculum has always been student CHOICE. State the goal,
offer assignment choices and then consider the assignment "completed"
when the student has met the learning objective.
The second perception
required for self-motivation is competence. Students need to feel
that the learning is do-able. Reluctant learners often have arrived
at that point through a history of failure and feelings of incompetence.
So again, it is critical that the teacher include enough variety in
the classroom assignment options that students of all abilities and
learning modalities can be successful at some level. Lessons need
to be challenging, but at least offer the perception of something
that can be done by each student.
Finally, we must
ensure a sense of classroom community. This means a safe environment
where students feel comfortable making mistakes as well as making
successes. Student collegial relationships and learning partners are
encouraged and promoted. Students need a sense of belonging. One of
the reasons I've been so enamored with oral defense is that is allows
me to build strong personal relationships with my students and with
So, you can create
self-motivated learners in any classroom simply be ensuring the three
necessary components - Choice, Feelings of Competence, and a strong
About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author
of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's
Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High
School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered
Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and
educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly
environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation,
Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
her: Kathie (at) brains.org
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