Late every school year things start to whirl out of control. It is at such moments that many educators start to contemplate the issue of motivation. I don’t know if any of the following is helpful, but it does help me to line it out…
In order for a student to learn, they must be attentive to the idea being acquired. Many in our day find attending for an extended time difficult, and many just don’t see the point of learning. So the problem is seeking to find a way to bring students to prolonged attention upon the lesson before the class.
Considerations and Factors:
- Few children today are taught to attend either by their parents or their teachers. This is a fundamental issue at the heart of the problem.
- Many teachers today form lessons that are hard to attend to, in part due to a changing definition of education and in part because they themselves, working off the model of their own teachers, have a poor education themselves (I include myself in this group, so please don’t be offended, it might not apply to you).
- Due to our move from normative education (which calls students to a high ideal) to something more akin to vocational training (which calls students to a good paycheck) it is harder to become passionate about education thereby be motivated to excel, because the ideals are gone.
- At the center of motivation, at least as I understand it, is the heart. It must be nourished on truth, goodness, and beauty so that it can properly order its affections and steer both the mind’s thoughts and the belly’s appetites toward a high calling (most notably “the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.,” see Phil. 3:14).
To solve this problem of motivation, I see several suggested solutions in our current educational culture:
- Move the Standards of Excellence to the middle of the road so students find success redefined in much easier terms.
- Continue to press the “money” button as this is the only true motivation of the modern man – study or you won’t “get anywhere” in life.
- Carrot and Stick – modify the student’s behaviors by rewarding the grade hound and punishing the losers (ie. the low grade student).
- Let’s make learning fun – related to “1” above, this solution calls for us to use games, technology, parties, whatever is at hand and considered “motivating” at the moment to bring short term performance oriented results.
- Considering the problem above, one might simply work through the considerations and factors and seek to change some or all of those:
- Teach the habits of mind that aid in attending – teach the memory, teach the tastes, teach the love of hard work, etc.
- Focus on developing teachers who develop truly “interesting” or real lesson plans – have them teach from an overflowing and well educated heart, rather than the latest “book” (this will take generations to pull off).
- Reorient education to norms again (this is why I tout Hick’s Norms and Nobility so much). This is closely related to Adler’s call for the high school seminar – reorienting the classroom toward ideas away from “bare facts” or “skills” will do much to recover the student’s interest in the lessons taught.
- But in the end, perhaps the most helpful thought I can share is the recognition that there is no silver bullet – no one “idea” will reform education. The loss of true education in America was generations ago, and it was a loss of our collective soul, so you can’t simply write, read, preach, workshop, or pull things back into shape. We must first recover our soul. And that is a large task that requires supra human help.