Editor’s Note: This piece was adapted from Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners: Strategies to Help Students Thrive in School and Beyond by Larry Ferlazzo, available March 21, 2015 from Routledge.
My previous post reviewed research on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and described the four qualities that have been identified as critical to helping students motivate themselves: autonomy, competence, relatedness, and relevance.
In this post, I’ll discuss practical classroom strategies to reinforce each of these four qualities.
Finding Value in Error
Teachers, like doctors, are expected to be mistake free. Administrators, parents, and even other teachers judge them very negatively for making mistakes. Yet when a teacher forms strong relationships with another teacher or two, they share their problems freely, ask for and give advice, and learn from each other. This also happens in schools where mentor teachers share ideas with new teachers.
What would happen if those pairs or threesomes expanded to include a small group of teachers, plus administrators, counselors, or even whole departments or entire school faculties? I know that some schools have created the trust necessary for such discussions. I think this concept could grow to include a wider number of schools, maybe even become a regular professional procedure for all teachers. What would you think of this idea? Is it feasible? Worthwhile? Helpful? An important side effect of discussing mistakes might be to change the perception of mistakes, not only for teachers, but for students as well. When teachers learn from their mistakes, they might be more willing to let students learn from theirs.
Changing perceptions about students’ mistakes is the second way that mistakes can improve learning. In the vast majority of classrooms, mistakes are evaluated as poor performance. Grades are lowered by mistakes. Students are encouraged both formally and informally not to make mistakes.
This belief system is absurd. When I thought of the mistakes I made over the years, the bigger my mistake, the more I learned. I learned from my success, also, but not nearly as much. I guess that every reader of this post has learned and is still learning from mistakes.