How to Motivate Students to Actually Do Homework and Reading – EdSurge

How to Motivate Students to Actually Do Homework and Reading – EdSurge

The following is the latest installment of the Toward Better Teaching advice column. You can pose a question for a future column here.

Reader Question:

Dear Bonni, What ideas do you have for student accountability? How do we get students to do pre-class work without giving a grade to everything? —Looking for change

Dave, my husband, was in the driveway a few days ago, about to head somewhere with our two kids. I had just finished my elliptical workout and he asked, “Are you glad you did it?” I was glad, but it didn’t start that way. The moves came prior to the motivation.

For 429 days straight, I have exercised for at least thirty minutes, a routine that gets reinforced by the sense of accomplishment and my overall better health. I was indeed happy to have taken that next step toward continuing my commitment. But I don’t rely on a feeling to get me moving most days. Instead, I lean on the power of habits to draw me into action, even when the way I’m feeling doesn’t necessarily prompt me. Often, students experience the same mindset around out of class preparation and we wind up needing to help them establish good habits beyond what they may naturally exhibit on their own.

James Clear describes the four components of our established patterns in “Atomic Habits: An Easy, Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.” Cues are the triggers that we humans associate with some type of a reward. Cravings are the drives that motivate us to act. Responses are the behaviors or thoughts we in turn produce, assuming that there isn’t too much friction preventing them—and ample reasons to produce them. Rewards are what we get when we take the intended action or think the desired thought.

Building up a habit like the one I have done for exercise involves both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for most people. It actually requires some unlearning, and some changes in approach, to create an environment that better encourages students to complete assigned activities. Instructors first need to consider how we use grades in our teaching—and then explore what kinds of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations exist and persist for our students.

Much of our students’ educational experiences have taught them to search out the rewards for a transactional gauge of their actions in the form of points or grades. In Susan Blum’s “Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (And What to Do, Instead),” we discover that when it comes to concerns about grade inflation:

“The trouble isn’t that too many students are getting As but that too many students have been led to believe the primary purpose of schooling is to get As,” she writes.

Part of the reason why students don’t complete the pre-work for classes is because they have been conditioned to focus on extrinsic rewards in their education. All too often, collecting as many points as possible becomes the game, perfectly designed to squeeze out any intrinsic motivations that might have otherwise surfaced along the way.

So how do you get students to complete the …….