The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation
Students of Today Require More Freedom
It is obvious in today's world that a new direction in education must be found and soon! Methodologies such as guided-discovery and self-motivated research should be incorporated to a greater extent. To facilitate these methodologies, teachers must guide their students from behind the scenes, rather than in front of them, as witnessed so frequently in typical class rooms. In this way, the teacher can quietly direct hands-on and self-guided learning. Self-guided learning puts students more in touch with a process of true learning.
Consider these questions regarding true learning:
* If true learning is defined by the retention of information, what mental process allows this to actually take place?
* Is "teaching to the test" detrimental to the retention of the information taught?
* Do students retain the information they have learned to pass a test?
* Are public school curriculums concerned with information being useful to the students after the test is passed?
* What are the tests testing and why?
* Is it the job of the teachers to keep students quiet for the purpose of learning through a process of passive absorption?
* Is it the teachers job to motivate the students to learn?
* Does true learning only take place when the desire to learn is activated by the student's own will to learn?
What one witnesses in public schools today is generally the forcing of students to learn. They are expected to sit in uncomfortable desks and learn through a process of absorption. These archaic practices are from old-school styles of teaching but, they are becoming less and less enforceable and realistic in modern society.
Students are expected to shut down their wills in school, but meanwhile, they live in a society which encourages great freedom and individual expression! Yet, because it is convenient for the teacher to stand and deliver the same lecture, class after class, she preferrs the "I teach, You listen" approach. She might as well come out and say, "Please, sit there, open up your brains, so I can pour in what I and Others have decided is pertinent."
And forget about encouraging students to consider why the information is important. Information must be learned for the sake of the Grade which Everyone expects the student to work for. And if a student is lacking in motivation, instead of encouraging the student, he is punished with a low / bad grade. This result serves only to diminish motivation and furthermore, causes the student to identify himself as a bad student or worse, not intelligent! However, it usually is the case that these students are quite intelligent. Most of them just have bad attitudes which have caused diminished levels of motivation. The bigger pictures in these children's lives must be considered and evaluated. A child's school and home life can be integrated through parent-teacher networking. This integration would serve to protect both positive attitude and self-esteem in a "whole child" manner.
The desire to learn should be respected, encouraged and inspired. The natural desire to learn comes from intrinsic motivation. It is interest which must be protected and fostered. Ask any educational psychology professor what enables the retention of knowledge and he will explain that it is "hit and miss." If this is true, why do we issue grades at all? I have always been puzzled by the expectation of earning good grades. The important thing is that teachers activate their students' interest and motivation. A student's willingness to learn is not only for the sake of his future, but for the sake of developing knowledge and abilities toward what could become a career, trade, or profession.
Proposed Set-up for a New Direction in Education:
Encourage schools to bring forth their students' potential for thinking, observing and discovering. The school should be geared toward helping students find and define their own purposes and goals. Within its environment, it provides time, space, information and projects. Students are encouraged to guide themselves through free-choice within general guidelines as established by the school's curriculum and its teachers. Students will work individually or in groups according to common interests. Classrooms will have books,screen technologies with internet access. Software programs such as Word, Photoshop, the latest graphics programs, accounting programs and other programs such as Solid Works, etc will be available in every classroom. Supplies for constructing models and designs will be available, as well. The students will write reports according to self-motivated research. Tests will be taken after the student has prepared himself through self-directed study. Teachers will encourage students to delve into other areas of study and research by linking subjects such as Art to Science, Music to Math, History to Science and Social Science to Statistics, etc. The teachers will cross reference with the help of other teachers while specializing in their own fields. The teachers will serve as guides toward exploration and discovery.
Other factors to enable a smoothly functioning school:
The students will learn how to schedule their time and find a balance between rest and work. They will be expected to conduct themselves responsibly and behave appropriately. They will research and study subjects in two hour block periods. The Block schedule will allow enough time for students to pursue the didactic learning activities available in all classrooms. Teachers will set good examples in behavior and dress. Boundaries are strictly enforced to foster freedom, focus and concentration. A holistic approach will be used by considering student's home lives, diet and social lives. Pharmaceutical substances are not allowed. All students are treated with respect and kindness. Tutoring will be available as needed for each student.
The school of the future will provide ways to help it's students understand and survive in their world/society. In this new direction for education, teachers guide their students toward success through research papers, classroom projects and the passing of tests. These avenues are not only worthwhile ends in themselves, but also help students toward the future. After all, the highest good is that which is for the sake of itself and something else.
ONE: Writing Leads to Reading
Creative writing needs to be included all through junior high and high school. Fostering creativity and self-expression is just as important as understanding famous authors. Proper grammar, spelling and editing should be stressed by English teachers through writing rather than through reading.
I learned to write by keeping diaries and journals as a child, teen and beyond. Writing is thinking slowly and clearly. Writing leads to reading and not the other way around… and this understanding is helpful in teaching the very young to read. They need to learn how to write first. ____________________________________________________________________________
TWO: Art is Not Frivolous
I believe drawing, 2D and 3D art experiences should be encouraged early on.
Most children love to draw, paint, sculpt and decorate, so why not allow them to do art projects to explore such subjects as geography, science, history and math?
I clearly remember one of my fifth grade teacher's art/science projects. She had each of us tie a long string to a small plastic tomato basket and suspend it in boiling water. I watched my little basket twist about as it melted in the boiling water. After we pulled them out, we observed the melted lumps harden into interesting forms. Each of us decorated our own crumpled basket with paint and glitter.
THREE: The Concrete Realities of Arithmetic
Right now, as I keyboard, millions of children are stuck in school. Every single day they get up and drag themselves, (or are dragged,) out of bed. They obediently go through their morning rituals and find themselves in their classrooms listening to their teachers. They try their best to do their assignments, which, today, are generally too advanced. Mathematic concepts are expected to be absorbed and retained minus the foundation of the concrete realities of arithmetic.
"College professors are distressed by the low level of understanding of algebra and arithmetic by large numbers of students as they enter college, including students who have taken calculus in high school. This concern prompted the local college math professors' professional association, the MD/DC/VA section of the MAA, to issue its statement, 'ON MATHEMATICS PREPAREDNESS.' College math professors decreed, 'Students should be able to perform Algebra and Arithmetic calculations, without the assistance of calculators.' This is the opposite of the MD HSA on calculators-based Algebra, which effectively mandates the exclusive use of calculators for Algebra."
“Children who have been mathematically abused are much less able to benefit from mathematically competent teachers when they finally reach them. One lesson our current elementary school teachers convey powerfully is that math is too difficult to understand. Because knowledge of mathematics correlates strongly with economic and political achievement, the mathematical education of all elementary school teachers is the paramount equity issue. As Will Rogers said long ago, ‘You can't teach what you don't know any more than you can come back from where you ain't been.’”
I remember my confusion with math concepts. In the first grade, my teacher explained in great agitation: "You have two cookies. If you eat one how many are left!?"
"Oh!" I said, "One. "
"Well, that is subtraction!"
Why didn't she say so in the first place?
Today, it is even worse. Children are taught algebraic equations before basic arithmetic as early as first grade. Children need to understand why we use math and how it applies to the concrete world, first and foremost. I was finally introduced for the first time to the number line in college!
What was expected of us as we went through school, sitting very still, listening quietly. And we adapted. We learned to be obedient to the teacher, listen blindly to concepts and regurgitate them on tests for the sake of report cards.
FOUR: Valuing the Now!
Teachers teach for the purpose of some future result, such as grades or tests. They do not allow students to enjoy the NOW of learning. I remember sitting at my homework desk at home. I had to define English words. I had to learn how to spell them ... for fun? for creativity? For some present time purpose?
No, for a grade or a test … sometime in the FUTURE.
Children do not develop their frontal lobes, where the sense of time is, until they are twenty four years old. Teachers need to teach to the "now" in them. Contests, games, classroom challenges, group projects would be more stimulating and help them experience and therefore retain their lessons. Sitting and listening to what teachers deem is pertinent is hard for children to handle! Nevertheless, children do adapt and parents appreciate the teachers' efforts to teach their children, but I believe there is a better way.