Student Driver

How can we foster intrinsic motivation in our science classroom?

Ways to instill autonomy within my future students:

  • Instead of doing a traditional test on a unit that is super critical students gain knowledge in, I could have them do some sort of project, paper, or presentation that allows the student to show me and their classmates what knowledge they have gained. Students can take this is any direction they see fit, and they should let their sense of creativity be the driver.
  • I can allow for more student choice and control in many different aspects of their learning experience. This could look like students using their background knowledge or experience as connecting point to various content, to students working on self-assessing their own learning or understanding.
  • Students can vote on various issues, activities, etc. in class. This is important to show students they have say and their opinions are valuable to the outcome of the classroom experience

A rewarding life requires so much more than compliance

This is true in the career world, and so true in the classroom (the place where students are being shaped). Inside the classroom, all to often has students who are just complying to teacher’s demands. These classrooms are usually quiet and boring, but are seen as “in control.” A way to allow our students to have a fruitful experience at school, science teachers should look to Inquiry to provide ample opportunities for our students to feel satisfied with their learning process. Inquiry in its’ most natural form allows a class to enter the “flow” state together, with one another.

Another way to make science class a rewarding experience is to meet with students on a consistent basis to check-in with their sense of engagement with the course. We can ask if students are feeling too overwhelmed, or perhaps not challenged enough in the class. This would be a great time as a teacher to differentiate instruction to allow ALL of their students reach flow- where the student gets lost in the experience of learning.

The video above by Beth Hennessey, highlights many key aspects discussed by Pink, but she highlights the important concept of time. As teachers trying to instill intrinsic motivation within our students, we need to give them ample time and opportunities to grow into this mindset. I suggest opportunities in the margins as an example or way to let curiosity unfold and to let students carve the pathway to learning.

How can we infuse purpose to instill a culture of intrinsic motivation?

  • Be purposeful with the words we use and display as educators! The language of the classroom should be used with purpose because our words have deep meaning. The messages we give our students our so important because they affect how students see themselves and their identities. Pink says, “Humanize what people say and you may well humanize what people do” (139).
  • Consider the policies (first day materials/ syllabus) we give to the students. Even with good intentions, these rules or policies can unintentionally move intrinsic purposeful behavior to extrinsic behavior.
  • Students gain purpose when they choose community projects or volunteer opportunities. Allowing students to give back to the community with choice creates greater satisfaction.
  • Have conversations and discussions around the purpose of school and education. Why are we here? For grades? Or to be a life-long learner?

A possible lesson for intrinsic motivation

Create a semester-long mystery investigation. This could be taken in SO many directions. The mystery can be some scientific phenomenon that is hidden from the student in some way, but not hidden enough where students can still perform experiments with it, conduct various tests, collaborate with one another, ask questions, make predictions, etc. This type of exploration investigation taps into deep critical thinking over a period of time. Students learn quickly they will not be given the answer in a day, or a week, or even a month. Over the course of the semester students and the teacher come back to it and continue to build off of one another and previous findings. Students will become motivated by engaging in this inquiry process over time. They will look forward to experimenting with the mystery phenomenon, and learn how to be creative and curious through this investigation! The reward will be coming to a conclusion as a class. It will be tested and experimented with so much, students will demonstrate confidence in their answers or explanations without even having the phenomenon confirmed by the teacher.

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2 Responses to Student Driver

  1. wilsonbp says:

    Hi, Riley! I would like to start off by stating your first image is very powerful and truly encompasses intrinsic motivation. As soon as I looked at it, I made the connection and readers of your blog who have not read the book can get a rough idea of what you will be discussing throughout. I really like how you push student choice in your classroom and how you will allow students to vote to determine possible activities! Would you allow this voting to branch into assessments? For example, allowing students to vote whether or not they want to take their quiz Friday or Monday?

  2. jaycoxck says:

    Hi Riley!
    I really enjoyed reading your post. I absolutely love the idea of the mystery investigation. I think that is such a creative and unique way to not only attempt to boost intrinsic motivation, but to also teach the meaning of science. Science is not just a 1/2 week lab, but, rather, it is a constant pursuit of answers. Would the student collaborate with each other as in they are doing this in groups? Or will the students work on this individually, collaborating with each other like a science conference? Great post!

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