Monday, 30 March 2020

Student Engagement & Motivation: A Few Tips!

Although there is significant research/evidence/readings about engagement and motivation individually, there is also an clear link between the two. I'm sure many would agree, that students are likely to be more motivated in the classroom to complete tasks, asks for help, aim for success, if they are engaged in their learning. This seems obvious, but unfortunately can be easier said than done to achieve. I am struggling to motivate some students, struggling to engage some students, and struggling to motivate AND engage others. As a result, I decided to complete some research on tips to increase student engagement and motivation.

For your reference, these are the articles and videos I read/watched and have summarised;

Key Points Related to Engagement:
  • Provide students with a sense of ownership
  • Give opportunities for student choice
  • Use activities that promote curiosity
  • It's important to build connections between home and school (see how I'm trying to create positive connections here)
  • Give explanations/insight into why the students are learning those things/completing those tasks, the bigger picture
  • Learning needs to be adaptable to reflect differences in student needs
  • Include tasks that encourage group work and collaboration

Key Points Related to Motivation:
  • Teacher expectations need to be positive, high and realistic (see high expectations blogpost here)
  • Quality of Knowledge > Quantity of Knowledge
  • "Students' motivation is strongest when they believe they are socially accepted by teachers and peers and their school environment is fair, trustworthy and centred on concern for everyone's welfare." (The Education Hub) 
  • Make links between the learning, and students' overall/ongoing goals
  • Students need to feel confident that they can meet the level of challenge and have the skills needed for a task, in order to feel they can be successful
  • Rather than comparing to others, encourage students to focus on personal improvement
  • Provide ongoing, reinforcing, positive feedback
  • Actually discuss what motivation is, why it is important and what strategies can be employed to increase motivation


A quote to finish, from Rob's YouTube video, that left me thinking...

"When things are too dull and too easy, the students get bored. And we know that when the work is too difficult, and too confusing, the students get frustrated. Both of these situations led to students switching off..."

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Teachers, A Tip: You Can Always Be Better!

This week during our department meeting, we had a rapid PD on 'reflective practice'. This article delves more deeply into what reflective teaching actually is, which I recommend reading whether you are a student teacher, or you've been in the profession for years! Spalding describes reflective teaching as "a more systematic process of collecting, recording and analysing a teacher's thoughts and observations, as well as those of their students, and then going on to making changes". According to Dylan William, reflective practice is important because every teacher can improve.

I feel confident I am already quite reflective, but I enjoyed and appreciated having the time in this meeting to briefly dissect and discuss our integrated curriculum so far. I plan on writing a more detailed reflection on Topic 2, the integrated course I was part of creating and am now teaching, in a couple of weeks.

The task we were given, visible below, was to identify possible gaps in students' learning, what helps and stops student learning and finally strategies moving forward to support these students. The overall consensus of our discussion was that the integrated curriculum is positive, but naturally there is some fine tweaking to be addressed, such as the need to increase student self confidence, reduce students feeling overwhelmed and the balance of student centred learning and teacher-directed learning. I have identified and briefly described three strategies I am going to try implement into my integrated topic, in hope to address some of the tweaking aforementioned!

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming!

One of my favourite units to teach is the resilience unit in Year 12 Health. The purpose of the unit is for the students to become more aware of some of the risk and protective factors that are present in our lives (things that make it more difficult and things that help you to be resilient when you are faced with a difficult change respectively), and to learn different strategies to implement to increase one's resilience. Two years ago, while I was teaching this unit for the first time, I was needing to be quite resilient myself. I wrote this post exploring some resources I read/watched related to resiliency. I also was a guest blogger for #slowchathealth last year, emphasising that mental health is not equal to mental illness...

Last year for the first time, I had an outside speaker come into my Year 12 class, Zac Franich, to share his story. The students responded incredibly well to this. They were attentive and respectful, and I think many developed greater empathy - which is a major goal for the unit. I want the students to develop a greater understanding of what people may be facing day to day, when they may have no knowledge that they are facing that. I want them to have more sympathy for others when they are sharing their stories - even if to them that story does not seem like a big deal, as for some it may be a massive deal. To actually feel empathetic, even if they are a stranger. 

As a result of the great response to having a guest speaker, I decided to develop most of the learning around risk and protective factors through several speakers this year. We have had 7 people visit us and share their stories when they've needed to manage changes in their lives (5 in school and 2 from outside). Their stories have varied from more low level  scenario such as being left in a flat on their own with no money to pay the rent, to an extreme of a family member murdered. Because the speakers used up a lot of class time I asked the students for their thoughts on having this many. Every student valued having a range of guest speakers, to hear about the things they have been challenged by, and many commented on enjoying such a variety of stories - so we will definitely be repeating that in the future!

Some of the strategies we have practiced as a class (whilst having access to no devices) has been socialising through games (such as Jenga and Last Card), mindfulness/visualisation scripts, colouring in/drawing, creating stressful day to do lists to come back to and sleeping. Yes, I give my students time to have a nap in class! In addition I have shared further places students can learn more or access further support, such as The Lowdown and Reach Out. As a class, we also brainstormed some other strategies we can use to help ourselves or others when feeling down or stressed or facing a big change in our lives.

For the assessment, many schools ask students to interview someone and then describe their risk and protective factors and explain the strategies they used. Instead of this, at Orewa the students develop their own characters through a series of diary entries. I really enjoy reading these entries, because most of the students are quite creative and craft some amazing stories. Slightly less than a quarter of the students said they would have preferred to interview someone instead of creating their own character because that would be 'more real life', so possibly in the future the students could have a choice. Especially because there were ample opportunities to chat with the speakers in class. 

The students write and submit their internal this week, so it'll be interesting to see what their results are like, after such positive feedback and high engagement in class. I'm particularly interested to compare this year's results to last year's, as this is the target unit for 2020 to increase achievement. For the mean time, check out some of the students' comments below! I'm especially proud of comments related to feeling comfortable and supported in the class. And as Dory sings, "just keep swimming!"