‘If you believe with absolute honesty that you are doing everything you can, -do more.’ Shane Koyczan
It’s a busy and exciting week at MCA. Not only have staff and students been participating in challenges as part of National Schools Sports Week, we have also seen the launch of the Creative Arts Festival of Diversity. Throughout the festival – which is all virtual, of course – our community is challenged to engage in a number of Arts activities. These include photography projects of an arrangement of objects that reflect your identity to performing spoken word. One example of this was the poem by Shane Kyczan that was shared by our Performing Arts Department on social media this week, from which the quotation in the title of this blog was sourced.
This is an inspiring sentiment and could be highly motivational for many people – myself included. Reading this also made me think and reflect on the idea of motivation in a wider sense. As has been previously written about in our blogs, the focus of developing metacognition and the skills of self-regulation for our students is the focus of our professional development programme this year. Key characteristics of those students who are able to self-regulate and achieve more success as learners, are motivation towards a specific goal while monitoring and evaluating the progress towards this goal in a non-linear and flexible way. If we look a little closer at motivation, we can distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Those who are able to be influenced by intrinsic motivating factors are likely to be more autonomous and therefore potentially more successful over time.
There is no doubt that many young people rely on the influence from extrinsic motivational factors – such as rewards from teachers, peer comparisons and school-based routines and expectations. However, during a global pandemic where students are learning remotely, these extrinsic motivational factors can be much more difficult to establish.
Like many schools, MCA teachers and support colleagues have been working incredibly hard to engage students in learning. At the start, this was our number one priority – let’s get students online or completing workbooks as much as possible. We need to engage them first and foremost.
Using the EEF guidance on remote learning, we adapted a teaching model that incorporated many of the elements that would provide high-quality learning and encourage students to engage in learning, whether that be online or with our structured subject specific workbooks. Features included facilitating peer collaboration through deconstructing model answers; using Google forms for low stakes quizzes of prior learning; supporting parents in establishing routines and maintaining our focus on reading and literacy development. This has been hugely successful and we are so proud of our students who have maintained an exceptional level of remote learning.
As time passed, it became clear that students would be learning from home for a sustained and significant time. We knew that students were engaging with learning in a number of different ways but our next challenge was to provide challenge and opportunities for deep thinking whilst still maintaining their interest. If it was too hard we could lose their engagement but if it was not challenging enough then we would effectively be wasting time and ultimately influencing their levels of motivation. We return to Bjork’s concept of desirable difficulty! We were clear that challenge is not more of the same and if this was considered, then this could have a detrimental effect on engagement and motivation.
Here are some of the ways that teachers are now providing opportunities for challenge whilst still engaging students in learning and providing some extrinsic influences of motivation:
- Flipped learning – students arrive to the lesson with their own questions. this provides pre-reading and then Google forms is used provide multiple choice questions for students to explore an idea independently, before arriving at the lesson. This means the online lessons can then stretch individual initial ideas and responses
- Use Google forms to provide some options for an interpretation to a text that has not yet been addressed in lesson, to prompt individual responses ready for greater in-depth discussions
- Use diagnostic questions in multiple choice quizzes that include ore nuanced misconceptions and using these to probe and further develop understanding
- Use ‘Wait questions’ via the chat function on online lessons – everyone has to prepare an answer and can only post when told to do so, providing wait time and a no-opt-out structure
- Use 1-1 or small group tutorials to provide feedback whilst the rest of the class work independently through a task
- Use shared documents to collaborate on a response as a class to create a ‘perfect’ response with prompting and immediate feedback from the teacher
With these activities, we have endeavoured to combine the guidance on motivation and metacognition, along with our understanding of activities that promote deeper thinking. We are excited to see how we can incorporate these, perhaps using technology more as we welcome more and more students back to school.