If all we offer is uninspiring learning, we’re in trouble

TroubleOur students come to school for a variety of reasons:

  • to see their friends;
  • to participate in electives, extracurricular activities, and athletics;
  • to interact with and get support from caring teachers;
  • to get a credential for college, career, or the military;
  • because their parents need child care;
  • because state law requires them to attend;
  • etc.

What about learning? Yes, that’s a reason too… for some. But engagement data show that many/most of our students are not coming to school because their learning is engaging. The reasons listed above tend to be much more compelling for most students than the fairly-uninspiring learning tasks that we put before them. But many students are often willing to put up with the uninspiring learning and play ‘the game of school’ in exchange for the other aspects of school. In other words: “Most of my classes may be boring but I get to hang out with my friends, be in a club, participate in music and art, play a sport, see a couple of teachers that I like…”

One of the biggest challenges of ‘remote learning’ over the past few months has been that most of the motivators been pared away. For many students, all that has been left is the uninspiring learning. Little to no interaction with classmates. Little to no interaction with caring educators. No electives, extracurriculars, or athletics. And so on. Accordingly, we shouldn’t be surprised when our students – who generally have more control and autonomy at home over their learning decisions than they do at school – simply opt out. They decide that the exchange rate has shifted and they’re no longer interested, regardless of our pleas (or punishments) to the contrary.

As we try to figure out what schooling will look like in the months to come, we need to pay attention to the motivators and demotivators that help foster student engagement. If all we’re offering students is the uninspiring learning, we’re in a heap of trouble.

Image credit: In case you were looking for it, Schwar

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