There are four key catalysts when it comes to ensuring students have the necessary motivation to learn: engagement, personalisation, collaboration and feedback.
These catalysts, are of course interrelated. For example, any teacher who delivers personalised learning knows their students. This in turn makes it easier for teachers to make learning more relevant and more meaningful, thereby increasing engagement. Likewise, teachers who engage in regular feedback and collaboration, are better placed to create relaxing, safe and supportive environments. Such spaces encourage learners to share ideas, to listen, and to support and challenge each other; which also boosts engagement.
As we strive to create more modern classrooms, it’s essential that we maximise the effectiveness of all of these. However, these catalysts also need to be fuelled, and todays teachers are using space, pedagogy, and the latest technology to ignite these stimulants, and steer pupils towards more purposeful learning.
An engaged classroom is one where students are at the centre of learning and involved in the whole process. Where pupils are in charge of their learning and such learning is active. In such an environment, pupils demonstrate attention, curiosity, interest, and optimism.
Fostering engagement is almost impossible with students inactive in rows of desks all day. Not only does the breaking of such a routine capture student attention, but carefully designed spaces also boost engagement by providing flexible layouts that help pupils to work in a way that best suits them and task at hand. For example, some pupils think more clearly when moving, while others are more creative when on the floor; increasing their ability to pay attention.
A more open and flexible work space makes it easier to manipulate classroom pace and helps teachers to make use of a variety of approaches and techniques, partly guided by the immediate needs of learners. Whats more, flexible spaces can also encourage students to discover things for themselves and facilitate active research.
“Pedagogical innovation demands a space that enables exploration by both teacher and student. To be effective, this space should allow for multiple modes of instruction and learning.”
Pedagogy can be used to facilitate engagement by capturing pupil attention in ways that are relevant to them; making learning relevant and applicable to their lives. For example, by making students involved in creating their own content, student-led pedagogy allows pupils to play an active part in their own studies.
Knowing your learners personally, and drawing on their interests and wider lives also helps to bridge the gap between students and course content.
Children today are brought up to experience and expect sensory stimulation. Tech makes this accessible in the classroom. As such, modern technology is being leveraged to encourage deeper engagement in schools. For example, by using interactive displays with media-rich content and instant-response systems, students are able to work with learning materials in new and absorbing ways. Likewise, edtech offers different ways for students to design, create, and disseminate their own content. Tech is also increasing class discussion and participation levels by allowing teachers to share learning in real-time with the whole class.
The more teachers understand their students as people, the more motivated these pupils become. Lets face it we are all more motivated when we feel we are known, understood and appreciated.
Personalisation sees students engaged in informal, independent learning and self-reflection. In addition, set activities are customised according to individual learning preferences and educational needs.
The right combination of spaces helps teachers to support personalised learning. Informal spaces that are more relaxed and less monitored encourage learners to self-reflect, while areas designed for small group work can be used for set tasks that match a pupil’s learning style. However, as well as making the most of the physical spaces within schools, teachers should also consider moving learning beyond the classroom, through the introduction of alternative school settings, community settings, and even the home.
By using their personal knowledge of students as individuals, teachers of any subject can draw on this understand to open the meaningful discussion of ‘big ideas’; to make learning more relevant and more meaningful.
Most modern pedagogical methods encourage teachers to tailor their content to suit the individual (e.g. helping to instil problem-solving skills with unique tasks, goals, and challenges). Allowing students to work independently, at their own pace, student-led teaching approaches also see students setting their own challenges based around their strengths, target areas, and interests; allowing learners to express their originality.
Delivering accessible platforms which let teachers move away from one-size-fits-all teaching materials, today’s edtech can be used to create assessments, tasks, and more; based on the needs of each pupil.
For example, with different ways of demonstrating and understanding knowledge, tech gives learners a choice in what works best for them; meaning work doesn’t always have to be completed in the same way for every pupil. Delivering more personalised learning, modern edtech also helps students to become active within their own learning styles.
Through collaborative learning methods, pupils become involved in activities which demand interdependence in order to produce successful outcomes, with shared responsibility for decision making.
Moving away from the traditional layout – which saw pupils inactive in rows of desks – the fast, and easy rearrangement of classroom spaces means students can be positioned differently for different contexts. Space can also extend beyond the immediate classroom (and even the school building), with many educators now providing shared learning spaces – both inside and out – to foster collaboration.
Collaborative teaching and learning helps to instil the vital soft skills employers need. But more than this, student-to-student collaboration – where learners get to know each other as individuals – is also a valuable life skill. Breaking away from conventional groupings and learning to accept people with different personality traits helps to dispel stereotypes and classifications that might otherwise continue to exist with more traditional classroom spaces. In the long-term, this approach leads to inclusion in and out of the classroom, as students make individual progress while working towards a common goal.
Collaborative learning can take a variety of formats such as quick, active learning activities or long-term group projects; both in and out of the classroom. While many teachers are concerned about the impact technology has on soft skills, rather than hindering co-operation in the classroom, in many schools technology is actually enhancing this way of working.
Feedback is used to alter the gap between current performance and the ideal. But feedback doesn’t just mean interaction between teacher and pupil, it should also come from pupil to pupil; with students given the tools and skills necessary to review their own, and their classmates work.
In schools, feedback is not a one way street with the most valuable coming from learners themselves.
Teachers can also learn a lot about what works, and what doesn’t, by gathering feedback on how they are doing from students. When it comes to learning by example, if teachers want feedback to be effective, they need to accept it as well as give it.
With the right classroom spaces, results can be shared in a dedicated area with interaction and feedback encouraged. This approach promotes important classroom dialogue and helps to fuel deeper collaboration and engagement.
In making sure that everyone has a voice, and is able to learn to accept other people’s opinions and ideas – even if they don’t always feel the same – modern teaching helps to break down barriers.
In addition, by making feedback a key part of learning, teachers can adapt their lessons to address any misconceptions or gaps in student knowledge. Students should also be encouraged to develop skills in listening, peer review, and constructive feedback.
Real-time feedback is key to the modern classroom. Technology can help make formative assessment an integral part of the day-to-day classroom with regular fun polls and quizzes. This doesn’t just help to remove the pressure, but also better engages students while gathering insight into their progress against standards.
As the modern classroom continues to evolve, more and more teachers will require support and guidance on how best to enable this transformation. By focusing on these four catalysts for learning, and how to inspire them, educators can start to introduce the required teaching methods and tools.