A Fire to be Kindled

The September 2014 edition of Educational Leadership, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, has as its theme “Motivation Matters.”  On its cover is a striking quote from Plutarch:

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Motivation is a significant aspect of life if it is to be lived to the full.  Even more important is motivation for learning. Learning just does not happen if the learner is unmotivated.

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Motivation cannot be forced–that is compliance–and compliance does not work for learning in the long run.  Neither do rewards, punishments, threats or incentives.   These can improve performance but not long-term learning. Students must be invited to become engaged.  Such engagement happens when learning relates to students’ interests or to students’ experiences, when students adopt as their own the goal of the learning, when students have  a hand in choosing something to do with the learning, when the environment of the classroom makes it safe for trying (and for failing and for retrying), when students view the teacher as supporting them in their efforts, when students develop a passion for the learning because they are challenged.

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The best teachers try to challenge, to foster success, to promote problem-solving and creativity and independent thinking, to search for ways to make learning relevant to student experience, to stand alongside students as they learn so to affirm or to offer correction, and to find ways to make learning enjoyable, i.e. not necessarily fun but a positive experience.  The best teachers try to keep the fire kindled!

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Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC