Motivation In A Bilingual Classroom Common Classroom Practices: A Psychological Approach Regarding Motivation in a Bilingual Classroom 2 Students want and need work that enables them to demonstrate and improve their sense of themselves as competent and successful human beings. This is the drive toward mastery. But success, while highly valued in our society, can be more or less motivational. People who are highly creative, for example, actually experience failure far more often than success. Biehler (p.
225) claims that studies show that when CAI used in conjunction with a teacher’s lessons, is particularly beneficial for low-achieving and young students. Before we can use success to motivate our students to produce high-quality work, we must meet three conditions: 1. We must clearly articulate the criteria for success and provide clear, immediate, and constructive feedback. 2. We must show students that the skills they need to be successful are within their grasp by clearly and systematically modeling these skills. 3.
We must help them see success as a valuable aspect of their personalities. All this seems obvious enough, but it is remarkable how often we fail to meet these conditions for our students. Take skills. Can you remember any crucial skills that you felt you did not successfully master because they were not clearly taught? Was it finding themes in literature? Reading and interpreting primary texts? Thinking through nonroutine math problems? Typically, skills like these are routinely assigned or assumed, rather than systematically modeled or practiced by teachers. So how can we help students master such skills? When teaching your students to find themes, for example, deliberately model interpretation. Ask your students to give you a poem you have never seen, and then interpret it both for and with them.
If they are reading primary texts, use what we call the main idea strategy. Teach them how to find the topic (usually a noun or noun phrase), the main idea (a sentence that states the text’s position on the topic), and reasons or evidence to support the main idea. If students are concerned about writer’s block, remember that perhaps the most difficult task of a teacher is to teach how to think creatively. In regards to behavior modification it’s noted in Biehler(p.237), in the case of primary students there is a possibility that some students will come to realize that the teacher rewards them only when they’ve done what she wants or has completed a task accurately. These are not revolutionary ideas. They simply illustrate how easily classroom practices can be improved, thus increasing the chance that your students will succeed.
“But what of the criteria for success?” Teachers define success in many ways. We must not only broaden our definition, but also make sure the definition is clear to everyone. In this way, students will know when they have done a good job, and they will know how to improve their work. To achieve this clarity, we can present examples of work that illustrate high, average, and low levels of achievement. Such exemplars can significantly motivate students, as well as increase their understanding of their own ability to achieve.
It has been pointed out that students who are bored by school and unmotivated in the eyes of the teacher nevertheless find plenty of motivation for playing a sport. The obvious question, then, is what is motivating about a sport? Think about a group of young people in a baseball game. The very things that motivate them to work hard and do well playing baseball can be adapted to the classroom. Let’s look at them: 1. Teamwork.
Humans are gregarious and like being around each other. Young people and adults usually like working as a team. Yet often the learning activities we assign call for individual effort. Young people especially complain that they don’t like doing homework alone, yet we often insist that it be done that way. By designing more team assignments, we can exploit the benefits of teamwork, where the weaker students will learn by having others help. And, of course, since teaching someone something is the best way to learn, the students who teach each other will learn better than if they were learning alone.
Why not let or even encourage your students to do their homework as a group? You will still have measures of individual learning when exam time comes. 2. Fun. Sports are fun, exciting, sometimes thrilling, and highly emotional. Learning experiences should provide as much fun (or at least enjoyment and satisfaction) as possible. We sometimes think that some learning tasks are by necessity boring (like learning definitions, grammar, vocabulary), but perhaps this attitude reflects only a lack of creativity on our part.
Americans especially have indulged the myth that work and play are two distinct entities that should never overlap. Work can be fun; it should be fun. 3. Enjoyment of success. Playing a game provides a constant flow of accomplishments and the enjoyment of those accomplishments.
Even the team that ultimately loses enjoys, say, a strikeout, a base hit, a well-caught fly ball, and so forth. Teachers should think about this stream of small but constant ego rewards. Breaking learning into small packages that can be conquered and that will in some way produce a feeling of accomplishment and success will help motivate students to go forward, even through very difficult material. 4. Active.
A baseball game is not passive (like too much learning). It requires both mental and physical activity. Teachers should strive to make learning always at least mentally active and perhaps often physically active as well. The students should be responsible for producing something, rather than just sitting passively, soaking up the lecture. 5. Flexibility and Creativity.
Baseball has rules, of course, but there is within those rules a large degree of flexibility, so that a player has a range of choices and strategies for accomplishing a given goal. In education, it has been found that students learn better when the directions given them have a similar flexibility so that they can put some of their own creativity–some of themselves–into the assignment. The freedom to follow hints, suggestions, and their own inclination will produce a greater desire to perform and a better long-term learning experience. 6. Tangible Thinking.
The game connects thought with the tangible in that every decision is worked out physically and its result is seen in three dimensions. This kind of connection is the best there can be for learning and remembering, as well as for providing fun. Teachers should therefore attempt to connect ideas, concepts, conclusions, and so forth with physical reality, whether as effects and consequences or in a symbolic way. Bring objects to class that will make or illustrate a point you want to convey. Call up students to stand before the class and give them roles or use them as examples of something. Connect ideas to pictures or to visual images in the imagination (that is, use concrete analogies whenever possible).
7. Outside the Classroom. It has been said that most learning takes place outside the classroom. It’s important, then, for the teacher to prime students to continue learning after class, to prepare them to be aware, to ask them to apply concepts in their lives after they leave class, to shape their out of class learning experiences through hints, suggestions, assignments. Students want and need work that stimulates their curiosity and awakens their desire for deep understanding. People are naturally curious about a variety of things. Einstein wondered his whole life about the relationships among gravity, space, and electromagnetic radiation.
Deborah Tannen, the prominent linguistic psychologist, has spent years pondering the obstacles that prevent men and women from conversing meaningfully. How can we ensure that our curriculum arouses intense curiosity? By making sure it features two defining characteristics: the information about a topic is fragmentary or contradictory, and the topic relates to students’ personal lives. Students then work together in-groups, retracing the steps scientists took in weighing the available evidence to arrive at an explanation. We have seen student’s work diligently for several days dealing with false hypotheses and red herrings, taking great delight when the solutions begin to emerge. As for topics that relate to students’ lives, the connection here cannot be superficial; it must involve an issue or idea that is both manageable and unresolved. We must ask, With what issues are adolescents wrestling? How can we connect them to our curriculum? Figure 1 illustrates some possibilities for adolescents References Snowman, Jack/Biehler, Robert (2000) Psychology Applied to Teaching Houghton Mifflin Co.
Colin, Baker (1996) Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism Multilingual Matters (pgs 105-143) Cummins, Jim (1996) Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society California Association for Bilingual Education Education Essays.