Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Motivating Students With Choices

Motivating students can be complicated and difficult, especially after a holiday. What can we do?

We could try posters. Like this one.

Joking aside, no one likes work that feels pointless. We can help motivate students by showing them the value of the tasks we give them. We can start by explaining and discussing what we value in it. And we can “meet students where they are” by connecting classes to their lives and to the lives they want to have.

John Beasley,
an instructor in Fordham's ROTC program, responded to this tip with one of his own, a tip about motivating students using "practical exercises." Send us your ideas! We'd love to share them with your colleagues.

Meeting students where they are requires taking seriously our students’ goals as they shape their own plans for growth. And it suggests that we share control with them, which experts argue is a potent motivator.

Giving students choices, like options within assignments, is common. Many faculty also give students options about which of several assignments to complete. Some faculty allow students to order off the menu, too, pitching their own assignment ideas or substituting a long essay for an exam, for instance. Many of us ask students to help shape the course by selecting readings or topics for discussion.

One popular how-to for teachers urges that we offer students control "within limits." But some educational researchers are beginning to collaborate with students to redesign entire courses. See: It’s clearly about the long term and not a quick fix. But Felton and his colleagues swear by the payoff in motivation and increased student satisfaction.

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