English: Students learn to play in a group les...
English: Students learn to play in a group lesson עברית: תלמידים בשיעור נגינה קבוצתי, Original Image Name:שיעור נגינה קבוצתי, Notes:הועלה ע”י צביה ויצחק רוט, Location:נתיבות (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


My name is Eduard Arroyo. I’m a physics teacher and ICT coordinator, but I like to think about everything educational. Lately I’ve been thinking about engagement and how we ourselves may be to blame for our students’ lack of motivation. Let me explain what I mean.

Imagine your friend tells you to try a new flavour of pizza. “It will blow your mind,” he goes. “It’s the best invention since bangers and mash.”

I’d say that, unless your friends have very poor taste in food or you have very poor taste in friends, you’ll probably be excited.

However, if your friend followed up his recommendation with “I’ll give you ten dollars if you try” you would probably be less keen. After all, if it was that good he wouldn’t have to bribe you. Similarly, if he threatened to blow your brains out unless you tried it, you would be even less inclined to do so.

If you think about it, in schools we do something similar. We tell our students that our subject is fascinating and that, if they do well, they’ll get a good grade. Similarly, if they do not learn, they’ll fail and we’ll talk to their parents. Just like in the previous example, we are selling a product while simultaneously trying to bribe and threaten our customers. No wonder they are sceptical.

I envision a school where the focus is placed on learning, not grades. No grades does not mean no feedback: it just means no judgemental number attached to what a student knows. Instead, we could use standards that simply point out what the student can and cannot yet do. We could even use levels, like in a video game. “You’re a physicist level 5 and a mathematician level 7. If you want to reach level 8 you need to be able to do this integral.” Though, on second thought, levels are still a kind of bribe. So it may be a bad idea.

We have made students addicted to praise. We reward them for learning, therefore making them miss the point that learning is its own reward. We need a different mindset, one that does not encourage effort without question, but where effort comes as a result of something much better, which is passion.

We need zest.

This blog is an attempt to find it.

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