Teaching Tip #5 – Increasing Motivation Day 1

Motivation is a major force that contributes to student learning in school, and a study published in Teaching of Psychology in 2014 suggested a strategy on the first day of school, that can greatly increase the motivation of students within the course.

The study was published by Jared J. McGinley and Brett D. Jones, in volume 41 (2) on pages 158-162, in the Teaching of Psychology Journal. The study was conducted on four different undergraduate college classes. Because of this, it may be prudent to assume that this strategy can be appropriate for college, high school, and possibly even middle school aged students. It may work at the elementary level, however the procedure of the strategy focuses on students taking a specific course, rather than students in a single classroom. This can be adjusted, but the efficacy at an elementary setting may not match that of an undergraduate setting.

The authors of the study designed the strategy as a way to increase motivation for students on the first day of school. The strategy takes the form of an icebreaker discussion between students, and then a verbal interview process between students and the instructor. The strategy is outlined below.

  • Students are split into small groups
  • Students are asked to discuss four questions
    • What is your perception of this class?
    • What are your feelings about this class?
    • How does this class relate to your short-term and long-term goals?
    • What are some topics that interest you in this course?
  • Students were also asked to develop their own question for the instructor of the course
  • Students discussed the four questions among themselves for about 15 minutes. The first two questions were designed as icebreakers for the students. The second two questions were designed to help the students make connections between their interest and the usefulness of the course, to the course content.
  • Students then introduced themselves to the instructor, and asked the instructor a question. Students had the opportunity to ask the instructor any question that one of their peers had come up with, in an effort to ease any discomfort.
  • The instructor responded to the questions in turn, and made a large effort to remember each of the student’s names.

The authors concluded that this strategy, implemented on the first day of school, can increase the motivation of students for the course, as well as academic and personal care. However, the authors did mention that they were unsure which aspect of the strategy was most important in their findings.

If you are looking for an activity that connects your students with you, or an activity that can increase motivation of your students on the very first day of school, this may be worth a try. If you would like to read the study in full, it can be found at this link: A Brief Instructional Intervention to Increase Student’s Motivation on the First Day of Class.

McGinley, Jared J., and Brett D. Jones. 2014. “A Brief Instructional Intervention to
Increase Students’ Motivation on the First Day of Class.” Society for the Teaching of

Teaching Tip #4 – Wrong Answers

You ask a question, and a student provides a wrong answer. How do you respond?

This scenario certainly happens many times throughout the year – after all, making mistakes is a part of the learning process. However, responding appropriately to a wrong, or partially wrong answer is very important for the learning of that student.

Doug Lemov, from his book Teach Like a Champion, explains how to provide a positive, yet appropriate response, in a few important points.

  • Don’t “Round Up.” If a student is partially right, don’t affirm their answer and then add a detail of your own to improve the answer. This sets a low bar of expectations of cognitive thinking. Instead, prod or encourage the student to do the heavy thinking on their own.
  • Hold out for the student to finish. Use phrases like, “I like most of that…” or “We’re almost there, can you find the last piece?”
  • Be sure students are answering the question you asked. For example, when asking for a definition, don’t accept an example as an answer – recognize it for what it is, but work towards the learning you require of your students.
  • Use Responding to “I Don’t Know” to help with wrong answers from students.

Using these simple reminders, and being mindful of how the language you use can impact students, can help raise the rigor in your classroom and maintain high expectations for your discussions.