Engaging Today’s Students in Active Learning (Part 4)
In Part 2 of this series we discussed barriers to active learning – various causes that impact students’ ability or willingness to learn. In Part 3 we looked at strategies to grab students’ interest and get them involved in their own learning. Now we’ll examine teacher behaviors that impact learning.
Excellence in the Classroom: Modeling excellence increases the likelihood of teachers receiving excellence from their students. This generation of students displays a heightened sense of intolerance for mediocrity. They possess a greater ability than previous generations to discern genuine concern and ability (in other words, they are hyper-sensitive to phonies). Many teachers perpetuate a double standard; they expect more from students than they exhibit in the classroom themselves. Students take offense at this behavior and ultimately demand more of teachers. In fact, this inconsistency is rarely forgotten, and most often becomes a rift in the trust relationship between student and teacher. Students need to see teachers perform in the classroom to the same high standard students are expected to perform. By the same token, teachers are not expected to be experts in every subject; in fact, students respond well in reverse-mentoring situations where teachers learn from students-providing a reciprocal relationship. Teacher attitudes significantly affect their relationship with students.
The current student culture demonstrates short attention spans, a powerful need for immediate gratification, and a thirst for technology. Boring rooms lead to bored students. Teachers are tasked with stimulating energy and enthusiasm in even the most mundane subjects and students are very conscious of the effort teachers exhibit-or more often, did not exhibit.
One of the most challenging yet exciting additions to curriculum in today’s culture is multimedia technology. Teachers and administration are called upon to manage change amidst the turmoil of adolescence, while they maintain standardized test scores, as well as classroom composure.
The use of computers demonstrates an increase in student motivation to learn. Both teachers and students report a greater interest and motivation by the students when multimedia is incorporated into the curriculum. Research shows that students are able to remain on task longer when technology is involved in the learning process. Furthermore, the use of technology increases students’ skills in note taking, information gathering, collaboration, documentation, and presentation design. It appears that from a behavioral perspective, today’s students are often expected to perform in the same manner as students 30 years ago rather than as students of the current technological era.
Through the use of computers, this generation’s students are able to achieve greater quantity and quality in a day’s study. When students and teachers both have a basic grasp of technology, students show greater motivation through interest and time spent engaged in learning activities, as well as students’ ability to maintain and incorporate what they learn.
Students of this generation already embrace technology. Greater than 90 percent of the teen population (ages 9 to 17) access the internet; approximately 84 percent of those log into social media. Although the current trend in the work place is moving toward social media use on the job, it is more the younger crowd that embraces the technology. Teachers and students benefit through the use of social media since teachers could control when they log onto a service (better control than students having the teachers’ phone numbers) and students experience a deeper sense of trust and genuine concern from the teachers. Students are able to request extra help or gain a deeper explanation to an assignment without the added social consequences of their peers’ observation. However, the majority of school districts prohibit teachers and students from connecting through social media at any time; in fact, teachers caught in such situations are immediately fired.
Allowing students to email assignments as an alternative to handing in a hard copy reduces their need for printers, paper, and ink cartridges. Adding email as an option eliminates or reduces many excuses for late assignments.
Regularly posting and updating class web pages allows students to be independent and proactive about double-checking assignments, reviewing class notes or syllabi, and preparing for upcoming classes. Students feel more satisfied with their learning experience when they can participate through technology. Some theorists believe that students will not develop responsibility if assignments are posted on the school website where they can easily be retrieved; however, such a practice is far more consistent with this generation’s use of technology to access assignments, information, research, and other tools via the web than any previous generation. Social media, internet use, email, and other forms of technology are part of this generation’s toolbox. Their skilled use of these tools is essential to their future success. Teachers who guide this current generation would be wise to accept their unique abilities and guide them in using those abilities in a productive way.
When teachers show a concerted effort to understand and relate to the current generation of learners and ultimately adapt teaching styles and merge technology to fit learners’ culture, both discover a much more rewarding experience. Through repeated positive experiences, as discussed earlier, trust issues minimize and student/teacher relations are more effective. Instead of arguing petty differences, teachers need to embrace this generation and adapt to the change in learning styles.
In Part 5 we’ll look at more strategies for engagement. Watch for my next article in this series!