Enhancing Student Motivation with Real Life Connection

Heidi Jordan
Associate Professor, Child Development

As a laboratory instructor in the child development and early education department I was recently observing a student in a preschool classroom with young children. She was struggling to use the positive guidance skills learned in her corresponding course with a child that was challenging her patience.  I wondered how in my feedback discussion with her I could help this student to be motivated to learn these skills for guiding young children and be able to apply them in her work with them.  I reflected on what I recently learned in my Transforming Learning Through Teaching class in regards to motivating students to learn. I knew my goal was to help her to be intrinsically motivated to learn this information and to help her see how learning and applying these skills could impact her work with children. In turn this could impact how she feels about herself as a classroom leader.  I wanted to link our discussion to how it could benefit her in real life.

During the post-session discussion I shared a personal story of my own experience as a young teacher, telling her about a child in my classroom who challenged me with his behaviors every day and left me feeling unsuccessful in my teaching practice and also in helping the child to be successful in a school setting.  I explained that in this time of self-doubt I looked back to the skills I learned in my college experience, the very same skills she was learning now, and was able to not only help the child be an engaged member of the classroom community but also built confidence in myself as a teacher.  I realized the skills were effective tools and that I was capable of managing the classroom and providing a positive learning experience for all children.

My goal in sharing this authentic story was to help the student make a connection to her own life experience. I wanted the student to find value in the skills. When I revisited her a few weeks later she was applying her learning! She thanked me at our post-session discussion this day and said, “_’s behavior has gotten so much better and I leave work so much less stressed out!” In this experience I was able to see to benefits of motivating students to learn course content by helping them to connect to the information to their own experience…Connection to real life is key.