Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gorsline’

How Do We Motivate Kids to Learn?

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Today I'm happy to share with you this guest post from Michael Gorsline, M.A. He's a parenting coach and a child and family
therapist who enjoys helping families make life more rewarding.

blogs about his approach and strategies at his site, Awareness * Connection, and for the GTDtimes. Michael's post is in response to my post yesterday, "Should We Pay Our Kids to Learn?"

Kids are ALREADY
motivated to learn. It is part of how human beings are wired. Even
chimps will solve puzzles for the challenge without any reward.

reason we are tempted to pay students to learn (which the research is
clear is counterproductive) is that we don't go to the trouble to find
ways to show them how the learning we propose is pertinent in practical
ways for their lives.

Doing so takes more work, more skill, and more thought on the part
of both the teacher and the school system. As school curriculum is
arrived at via political processes, and these processes are complex and
bureaucratic in nature, it is not too surprising that we end up with
simplistic solutions, like testing the cr** out of kids to "raise
standards," and coming up with sweeping programs with clever names
designed to look like they are doing something, and which are mandated
while not funded.

The programs are analogous to the Department of
Homeland Security taking your fingernail clippers away to make you feel
safer. It doesn't address the actual problem, but it supposed to look
like it does.

I don't know of any easy answers. I only know from my training and
experience in both education and psychology that the authors (see yesterday's post) are
talking about research that is very well established, and that is
important. I also know that for instruction to be effective you need:

To SHOW kids and discuss with them how the learning in question will be
practically useful to them.

2) Curriculum that is actually
practically useful (there is no help for irrelevant

3) A good relationship with the teacher. You can't
just "deliver" instruction without a relational context. Kids will work
harder for someone that really knows them, and that has a bit of time
to relate to them as a person rather than as a curriculum-swallowing
automaton. Having some time to address how the child actually learns
best is also important.

4) Some choice for kids re how, and
what, they learn. They don't like being told exactly what and how to
learn any more than you want your boss to micro-manage how your deliver
a certain result. In other words, provide parameters and let them make
some choices between those.

Class sizes, size of school and whether you pay a decent enough wage
to attract bright, creative people into teaching are among many other
important variables.