Engaging Today’s Learners in Active Learning (Part 4)
In Part 2 of this series, we discuss barriers to active learning: various causes that affect students’ ability or willingness to learn. In Part 3, we discuss strategies for engaging students and engaging them in their own learning. We will now examine teacher behaviors that impact learning.
Excellence in the Classroom: Modeling excellence increases the likelihood that teachers will receive excellence from their students. This generation of students shows 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 hypersensitive to counterfeits). Many teachers perpetuate a double standard; they expect more from students than they themselves display in the classroom. Students take offense at this behavior and ultimately demand more from teachers. In fact, this inconsistency is rarely forgotten and, in most cases, becomes a crack in the relationship of trust between student and teacher. Students need to see teachers perform in the classroom at the same high level that students are expected to perform. Similarly, teachers are not expected to be experts in all subjects; in fact, students respond well in reverse tutoring situations where teachers learn from students, providing a reciprocal relationship. Teachers’ attitudes significantly affect their relationship with students.
Today’s 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 well aware of the effort teachers show—or more often, don’t show.
One of the most challenging but exciting additions to the curriculum in today’s culture is multimedia technology. Teachers and administration are called upon to manage change amid the turmoil of adolescence, while maintaining standardized test scores as well as classroom composition.
The use of computers demonstrates an increase in students’ motivation to learn. Both teachers and students report increased student interest and motivation when multimedia is incorporated into the curriculum. Research shows that students can stay on task longer when technology is involved in the learning process. In addition, the use of technology increases students’ abilities to take notes, gather information, collaborate, document, and design presentations. It seems that from a behavioral perspective, today’s students are often expected to perform in the same way as students of 30 years ago rather than students of today’s technological age.
Through the use of computers, students of this generation can achieve greater quantity and quality in a day’s study. When both students and teachers have a basic understanding of technology, students show increased motivation through interest and time spent in learning activities, as well as students’ ability to maintain and incorporate what they learn.
Students of this generation are already embracing technology. More than 90 percent of the adolescent population (9 to 17 years old) access the Internet; about 84 percent of them log on to social media. Although the current trend in the workplace is moving towards the use of social networks at work, more young people are adopting the technology. Teachers and students benefit from the use of social media, as teachers can control when they log into a service (better control than if students had teachers’ phone numbers) and students experience a more sense of deep trust and genuine concern on the part of teachers. Students can ask for extra help or get a deeper explanation of an assignment without the added social consequences of peer observation. However, most school districts prohibit teachers and students from connecting via social media at any time; in fact, teachers caught in such situations are fired on the spot.
Allowing students to email assignments as an alternative to submitting a hard copy reduces their need for printers, paper, and ink cartridges. Adding email as an option eliminates or reduces many excuses for late tasks.
Publishing and regularly updating class web pages allows students to be independent and proactive in double-checking assignments, reviewing class notes or syllabi, and preparing for upcoming classes. Students are more satisfied with their learning experience when they can participate through technology. Some theorists believe that students will not develop accountability if assignments are posted on the school website where they can be easily retrieved; however, such a practice is much more consistent with this generation’s use of technology to access tasks, information, research, and other tools via the web than any previous generation. Social media, Internet use, email, and other forms of technology is it so part of this generation’s toolbox. Your skillful use of these tools is essential to your future success. The teachers who guide this current generation should embrace their unique abilities and guide them in using those abilities productively.
When teachers show a concerted effort to understand and engage with today’s generation of students, and ultimately adapt teaching styles and blend technology to fit the students’ culture, both find a much more rewarding experience. Through repeated positive experiences, as discussed above, trust issues are minimized and student-teacher relationships are more effective. Rather than discuss petty differences, teachers need to embrace this generation and adapt to changing learning styles.
In Part 5 we will look at more strategies for engagement. Stay tuned for my next article in this series!