The quality of teaching has an enormous influence on students. It affects their achievements as well as their engagement in the learning process. But more importantly, it influences how they perceive themselves as learners.
There are many different methods and teaching strategies designed to motivate your class for better results. While guidelines and methodology definitely help, it is you, the teacher, who faces the ultimate challenge of making sure every one of your students learn as much as they possibly can.
Below is a list of 7 simple things every teacher or tutor, whether teaching group courses or individual lessons, can start doing today to get more out of their students:
1. Get to know your student(s)
Understand how your students learn and try to accommodate your teaching method to their learning style. There are three basic learning styles based on how people learn and process information. There is no right or wrong way to learn and these styles have nothing to do with intelligence, they just show different ways we prefer to receive new information.
It is important to understand the difference between the different styles so you can help your students learn in the ways most conducive to them. You can always ask them to take a quick quiz to find out what their learning style is so you don’t have to guess.
Now that you know the best way to present them information, you should spend some time and effort to get to know them personally and build connections with your students.
Be personal! This is certainly easier if you teach an individual course. But even if you have a big class, there are fun and engaging ways how to get to know each other better.
2. Set high expectations
You should hold all your students to high expectations and expect them to reach those high standards.
“If teachers demand high expectations from their students and engage them in tasks that interest and involve them, they will promote self-esteem and build students’ confidence and academic performance.” (Brophy, 2008, 2010)
It is also worth mentioning how important it is to articulate clear goals. Students should be absolutely clear on what they will learn in your class and what they will be expected to do with the acquired skills or knowledge.
Don’t forget to set the same high standards for yourself! You cannot expect them to deliver the best results unless you strive to do the same. In another words, you have to be motivated to keep them motivated! A great way to set high expectations for your practice is through professional learning and peer collaboration.
3. Be flexible
Everyone is unique. Some learners need more attention than others, some methods might not work in a particular environment. Go with the flow and be ready for change. This is not to say you should freestyle your teaching. You should always have a clear plan on what you want to cover in your class, but you might have different options how to get there. This is especially important if you’re using technology in your class. We’ve all been to lessons where the instructor spent half of the time fiddling with remote controls trying to make their presentation work. It is extremely frustrating for both sides and defies the purpose of technology in education. You should always have a plan B for these situations, even if you test everything before the actual class.
Don’t just try and stick to your plan if you can’t see the expected results. Combine different methods and strategies and keep testing them. Observe closely how your students respond and define the best approaches for each individual or a particular class.
Avoid the temptation of mass production! There is no “one size fits all” in education.
Recognize uniqueness of individual learners and create tasks appropriate to their level and style of learning as well as their personal interests.
4. Believe in them
Look beyond your students’ imperfections and problems and try to see their potential.
If you’re always reminded of what you cannot do or what you can’t accomplish, you will never start to believe in yourself. You need other people’s support to gain confidence. And you need confidence and motivation to tackle on challenging learning tasks.
You have to make them believe they can succeed or they will never do. Challenge them. Encourage them. You must help them to focus on their strengths until they start believe in them for themselves. Help them focus on the possibilities and coach them through the potholes along the path. You will be surprised how important it can be for some of you students to know you believe in them
5. Reward them
Most of us seek some kind of recognition for our efforts. By rewarding your students I don’t mean giving them anything in particular or granting them access to privileges that other students don’t get. That implies paying them for their efforts. They don’t need to be paid if you truly believe in them. Also, rewarding only the good students can be demoralizing for the rest of the class.
“Feedback, on the other hand, is about supporting the student in the process of moving toward the goal and closing that gap between where she is now and where she needs to be. ”
You should start by setting clear goals for the students so they know what they are working towards. You then monitor their progress and identify the best time to give them personal feedback. You should assess their results on an individual level. Excellent students most likely do not need to be rewarded as they have enough motivation and confidence to continue working hard.
On the other hand, students who struggle with the material need your kind words more than anyone. Focus on their efforts and reward them for working hard. Encourage their hope by letting them know they can always do better. Give them another chance to demonstrate they can do it.
Your smile is essential in the quest to reach your students. Smile creates a positive atmosphere where people feel comfortable asking questions and expressing themselves. It is an important means for building and establishing rapport. Smile is the easiest thing you can do to put your students into ease.
When you smile, your mood automatically brightens up which naturally affects people around you. An intriguing UC Berkeley research, that examined smiles of students in an old yearbook, has recently shown that those with the widest smiles were generally happier in their later lives and had more fulfilling marriages. That is just another proof that smile is a powerful means of communication. It is naturally contagious. We are naturally driven to smile when we see someone else, even a stranger, smiling.
Talking about smile, humor can be a great way to engage students and activate learning. Beyond the fun factor, it brightens enthusiasm and creates more positive environment. You don’t have to try to be funny at all times, just do what’s comfortable for you. You will quickly see the ease and optimism spreading through your classroom.
7. Be a Role Model
Although it goes without saying teachers should serve as desirable models to their students, we cannot leave this one out.
A role model is a person who inspires and encourages us to strive for greatness, live to our fullest potential and see the best in ourselves. A role model is someone we admire and someone we aspire to be like. We learn through them, through their commitment to excellence and through their ability to make us realize our own personal growth. We look to them for advice and guidance.
So what are the characteristics of a teacher as a role model? They model positive choice-making by putting the best choices into action. They apologize and admit mistakes; nobody is perfect at the end of the day. As a role model, you show respect to others and follow through in the same way you want your students to follow their commitments. Great role models are well rounded individuals who are proud of who they are.
As a student, I was always working harder for the teachers who proved to be caring and nurturing as I felt my results mattered to them. I simply wanted to show them I could do it; that I deserved their support. Those are the teachers who motivated me and which I still remember. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of them.
There are probably some other ways you can motivate your students and get the best out of them. What are your favorite tips? I’d love your insights on this.