Inspiring Students to Learn

I sat around talking to students once, asking them why they came to school.  The most frequent response was because they had to.  The ones who wanted to come then struck me as odd. So I asked them why.  Their responses focused around some teacher that they had some connection with, because they “made” learning fun.  This piqued my interest.  So I then asked the more important question, how.  The responses varied from “He’s a great storyteller.” to “They really care about me.”  The students who were fond of me said that I was a good example of how they wanted to be.

I’m logical, so I reflect.  Education here in the U.S. was begun in church around religious beliefs.  If I extrapolate that from then to today, I ask myself, did I ever graduate from church?  The answer is no so, then why not?  That’s when it donned on me.  Students don’t go to school to learn.  Learning is not a linear event.  It is a cyclical process.  They go to be inspired to learn.  Learning does not stop after 10-months, seven-hours a day.  It’s a daily 24-hour process.  Therefore, how do we inspire them?

I believe all the learning theories out there are nothing more than an attempt to quantify the inspirational process.  The problem is that once a topic is too far removed from its origin, then it loses relevancy.  Therefore, if we set all the learning theories out there to the side and look at the science of the learning process and how we are inspired to learn, we see that no significant amount of learning occurs without engagement.  Specifically, I’m referring to active engagement with the content we are learning about, or with peer collaboration about the content, or with a learned instructor. When this occurs, we notice that we are inspiring students through four effective means: behavior, motivation, short and long-term memory scaffolding.

The biggest hurdle to jump in the inspiring of young minds is fear.  Students have a fear of everything, because they don’t know anything.  Our fear is founded in a lack of knowledge.  When we know names/terminology and how things work, we aren’t afraid of it.  The problem is that students are afraid of the potential dangers and repercussions of losing a false mask of how others perceive them.  As we get older that fear goes away.  But while we are young, we need someone to inspire us to overcome our fear and courageously face a problem that needs to be resolved.

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