Follow these three steps to help your students motivate themselves

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How will you support your students to navigate their way back to engaging with their studies?

As schools reopen to all pupils, ask yourselves an important question: How can we best support those students who became disengaged during remote learning? The easiest thing for us to do is to tell students off, reinforce that they should have tried harder, and implore them to do better next time. But what are the chances that this is really going to lead to sustainable change?

Given what we know about the importance of students directing their own learning, the return to schools is a good time to pause and consider how we can best turn possibly mediocre student efforts during online learning into valuable learning opportunities, and how we can set our students up for success in the year ahead, whether they return to online learning or not. The following process can help.

Notice, reflect, plan is a simple process. You can use it as a template to encourage students to reflect on their online engagement, consider the impact their choices had on their learning and plan how they’d like to act in future.

Support students to notice how much they did

Towards the end of the last school year, some students totally unplugged. They may not have read the messages sent out to them, not attended online classes or, if they did attend, they may have ‘checked out’, engaging in other online activities with Zoom running in the background. To start the valuable process of having students reflect upon their learning, we must support them to notice how they engaged during learning online. For those who really unplugged, they may be unaware of how much they missed. To remedy this, ask students to rate their engagement on a sheet.

The action of explicitly reflecting upon their work done in relation to each task will help students to notice exactly how much work they did or didn’t do compared to what was set.

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An engagement sheet for students to rate their motivation levels during remote learning as MS Word or pdf.

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An engagement sheet for students to rate their motivation levels during remote learning from the Education in chemistry website:

Encourage them to reflect

The idea of the reflect stage is to give students an opportunity to consider how their achievements make them feel, and also to think about what may have led to, or inhibited, their success regarding remote learning. You can prompt students with the following questions:

  • Looking at this self-reflection mark, how do you feel about how you applied yourself during online learning?
  • If you are proud of your online learning efforts, what did you do that enabled you to achieve a high level of learning?
  • If you are not proud of your online learning efforts, what do you think is the main reason for your low amount of work?

Help them turn reflections into actions

Powerful feedback involves combining a focus on the here and now with an eye to the future. As such, the ‘plan’ step aims to have students proactively turn their reflections into actions for the future. You can do this in many ways, but one promising strategy is to ask students how they would like you as the teacher to help them to help themselves. You may like to provide students with a list of options to choose from, such as the following:

  • Call my parents and tell them that I haven’t done my homework.
  • Give me an extension and only call my parents if I still haven’t done it.
  • Have a discussion with me to help me work out how to manage my time better, and call my parents to let them know I’m struggling with my time management.

Together, notice, reflect and plan are a powerful way to help students take charge of their own learning, and to turn their prior remote learning experiences, however successful or challenging, into valuable lessons about how to better achieve their goals in future.