Over the weekend I caught up on the TED talks that were waiting on my iPad. The following three talks struck a chord with me. The first is Bill Gates. He talks about teaching and feedback. I’m lucky to live in a country where appraisal is mandatory. Gates’ talk makes me thankful that I get feedback through other teachers’ observations and through student surveys. I think feedback and reflection are two of the most important tools we, as teachers, can employ to better our craft.
Rita Pierson’s talk Every Kid Needs a Champion really supported the professional development I had just been on. The idea that every child deserves us to be on their side and support them. It reinforces that we must pose their feedback in a positive fashion, not insult them, or make them feel inadequate. Pierson is a vibrant speaker and passionate educator.
Dan Ariely's talk on What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work whilst focusing on a working environment can also equally be applied to student work and outcomes. It begs the question: Do students only care about their grades?
Clearly this is not what we want – so what can we do to change the motivation?
Ariely talks about examples including that of a student who worked for more than two weeks on a PowerPoint presentation. When he delivered this to his boss, he was told that it was great, but no longer needed. This made the student deeply unhappy, knowing that no one would ever see the PowerPoint.
Ariely goes on to say that the completion of a task with no recognition of its completion does not encourage workers or students to strive for greatness.
In addition, he says that asking students or workers to do the same task over and over demotivates entirely. For example, having a prisoner dig a hole which is filled in so that they can dig it again.
There must always be meaning to a task, otherwise it is meaningless to the person completing it. This seems like common sense, but it is so easily forgotten. We have tasks that must be completed, but what is their meaning. When writing assessments for students the meaning must be evident.
Getting students excited about their work is dependent on showing that you value their efforts and showing them that their work has meaning. You must recognise their work, or they will stop making the effort. When anything is completed for homework, it must be checked, otherwise homework will not be completed in the future. Even giving it a quick scan and a sticker makes a student feel that their work has been recognised and is valued. If you don’t check, students will test you and they will cheat to see if you notice.
The IKEA effect: The harder a task is, the more rewarding it is.
If a task is too easy, student’s won’t take ownership of it and make it their own. Nor will they perform at their best. By getting people to work harder they enjoy what they’re doing and their more.
Meaning is important.