The Fusion Blog offers 20 ideas to promote more creativity in the classroom. Not only are there twenty different ideas to choose from, but each idea offers additional resources to choose from. What a great post!
In particular, I like the ideas of making time for visual reflection, integrating time for hands-on reflection and keeping the classroom layout flexible. I have often re-arranged the layout of a classroom to suit an activity such as discussion groups or even smaller buzz groups.
When I first started teaching, I used to spend all my time lecturing. Nowadays, I like to break up my classes into short stints of lecturing and longer periods of discussion among the students on little problems or to deepen a point that was made in class. As students discuss the questions that I ask of them, I like to circulate in my classroom and eavesdrop, or ask more questions to move their discussions forward.
I told a friend earlier today that I will be continuing my studies next year, after I finish my Provincial Instructors Diploma in Adult Education. Her amused and sincere reaction was “What, you want MORE school?? Haven’t you had enough?”
And I will never have enough.
People in my family live very long lives, and I intend to continue living, and learning, for a very long time. As an instructor, I am a holder and communicator of knowledge – but I also come to the profession fueled by a deep and insatiable curiosity and desire to learn. And I hope to instill some of this in my students – whether they are 17 or 71.
I don’t recall many periods of my life when I was bored. There is so much around me that is interesting, that I want to know more about. I am enthused about undertaking a new topic, or learning about a new theory, or putting into practice new steps – whether they are in sports, or in a new technique, or in a new way of thinking. I love to read, and I love to listen to stories and accounts of historical events. I think I inherited this from my father, who was very curious about life around him and was always keen to spend time with me, to discuss current events or advances in technology. My mother, too, is a voracious reader. So it’s natural that I have learned to love books and newspapers, and learning about the world.
Some of the ways that I keep up in my core profession are: attending marketing seminars, subscriptions to journals and following thought leaders on social media. And it is the same, too, in my profession as educator – I attend conferences when I can, I follow many blogs, I read books and journal articles. When I complete the PID (which is soon!!) I hope to join a learning community in which instructors share stories, read books together, and generally keep in touch as a mode of support and sharing of what we are learning, what we are trying, and best practices from our time in the classroom or in online rooms.
I hope to instill a love of learning in my students, to make learning fun. Through this degree I have learned so many tools and techniques to raise students’ interest when it is flagging in class (because of the late hour – I teach many evening courses – or perhaps because the topic needs sprucing up). I have learned that students learn in various ways – by doing, by listening, by reading, by interacting with one another. In my classes I want to offer my students opportunities to learn – from me, from one another – and to find it fun and engaging. It’s a continuous process, sometimes it works, and sometimes it works less well – but I will keep trying. A life of learning, lifelong learning, is just much more fun.
Motivation continues to be studied in depth by academics. With this post I would like to discuss three theorists who ground my beliefs in what motivates people – and specifically my own students.
The earliest and perhaps most famous theory of motivation is that of Abraham Maslow (1954), who believed that people possess an internal drive that is constantly growing. He defined a hierarchical needs system, usually represented as a pyramid, from the most base to the most aspiring, as follows:
Self actualization (the realization of one’s true potential) Esteem (seeking recognition, awards) Love and belonging (connectedness to others with love and/or friendship) Safety (security, shelter, health) Biological and physiological (hunger, thirst, sleep, sex)
Each new level of needs builds upon the previous one. Needs are arranged according to their importance to sustain human life. Maslow (1943) and his followers believe that if one level is not fulfilled, it is not possible for a person to attain the next level. For example, if a person is not feeling safe or adequately sheltered, their focus will be on remediating this situation rather than striving for recognition or self actualization. However, the further up a person can successfully progress on the hierarchy of needs, the more psychological health and individuality they will be able to manifest.
Maslow’s theory is certainly a great start to understanding what motivates people, but I also look to other thinkers for additional dimensions. A theory that is of great interest to me trains its lens on the motivation to achieve. Douglas McGregor (1960) proposed his famous XY theory in his book “The Human Side of Enterprise”. Theory X (authoritarian style) posits that the average person dislikes work and will avoid it if s/he can. Therefore most people need to be forced to perform work, or else they will be punished. In Theory X, the average person needs to be directed, naturally avoids responsibility, is not ambitious and wants security above all else. This is an ineffective way to motivate a worker – or learner. Threatening students with bad grades is an ineffective way to motivate them to learn, and may make them overly anxious, further impeding their ability to learn and create. A more progressive approach with positive motivation will enable greater learning.
Continuing with McGregor, we now turn to Theory Y, where the effort in performing work is as natural as play. In Theory Y, the average person self-directs in the pursuit of their objectives without threat of punishment. People are committed to their objectives and seek further responsibility, and want to use their imagination, ingenuity and creativity. Managers, as well as instructors, who follow Theory Y are usually more successful at motivating their charges.
And finally, according to David McClelland, there are three types of needs: achievement, affiliation and authority. These needs are found in all workers and students. Understanding a learner’s needs will help the instructor to motivate them: a student with a high need for achievement will relish challenging projects with reachable goals. Students with a high need for affiliation will do well in a cooperative team-based environment. And students with a high need for authority or power will also do well in team based projects, and will gravitate to positions of leadership within them.
The three academics whose major theories I just mentioned are only three of many, many great thinkers who studied what motivates people at different times, and roles, during their lives. I use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, McGregor’s Theory XandY (well, my belief is in Y and not X) and McClelland’s three needs theories in my classes when instructing on topics of technology management – or refer to them when working in teams in my consulting practice.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.
McGregor, D. (1960) “The Human Side of Enterprise” New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
McClelland, D. (1961) “The Achieving Society”, New York: Free Press