The English Teacher

Motivating Learners in Negative Learning Environments

How to motivate learners in a very negative learning environment

How to motivate learners in a very negative learning environment is a difficult question. There are many viewpoints and "viewholders." The two groups most involved are teachers and students. However, administrators, parents, and community values all affect the way students learn. Teachers can affect some of these groups more than others, but it is important to realize that teachers do not have total control over student learning environment, even though some people would like to have teachers accept total responsibility.

From a teacher's point of view: does the teacher like to teach; does the teacher like to learn? Is the teacher sincere and honest? Those are the first factors. Next does the teacher know how to teach, and can he accept new ways of teaching to improve the skills he already has? Accepting new ways means being open to seeing for himself new ways; it does not mean accepting new teaching ways "imposed" by the administration, or other departments.

From the students' point of view, what are the reasons to learn? Most children want to learn when they are young, unless they have been hurt in some way. They may lose their enthusiasm for learning as they grow older. It is helpful to know the reasons students don't wish to learn in order to create the desire to learn. Students may know and remember the precise time that they decided to stop believing in learning in schools. Some students may be able to change their minds about not learning, when approached by a thoughtful teacher, but others may have been so hurt that they will not change until they are adults and free to learn on their own.

Some communities have expectations for their children to learn certain material by memory, without concern about how the students feel about it. There are some things that need to be learned whether the student likes to learn it or not. However, if everything a student learns is presented from a "you have to learn this" point of view, they are not allowed to express any choice, and without choice there is no energy toward learning.

Some students would like to learn but the classroom/school situation is so unruly that they have almost lost hope of being able to learn in the school system way. An unruly school situation is mostly due to the school administrator, although some communities may be permissive toward their children, and parents may not want their children controlled.

The most simple way of motivating students is for teachers to enjoy learning and to share that joy of learning with their students. When students are taught how to learn and feel their minds expand with the learning process, they will desire to learn on their own, and cease being unruly.

These suggestions may not be "practical" but they may point to a direction to look in order to change an unruly learning situations.

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