2nd Motivation in Series – Student Success

Moving Students to Success

A dedicated New Hampshire teacher, Susan Fitzell, has written a great paperback on student motivation and publishes resources on her website of susanfitzell.com. We’ll visit the work in our series on student motivation that began below with entrepreneurs.

Susan centers around the priceless gifts of empowerment and accountability in addition to motivation in tackling any learning challenge telling us how to motivate the unmotivated, empower students to reach goals, and to make homework fun.  Interestingly, Susan uses mindsets, cornerstone of entrepreneurship training, describing her process as changing a student’s mindset from fixed to one of growth mindset.  The aim is for students to feel control over the lives and know they can learn.  A start is one-on-one communication to show them they’re good at some things and telling them they can succeed.

 Twenty years ago, educators had much more latitude in how they taught their classes.  We had a curriculum to teach, but we created our own lesson plans and are trusted to use our skills as professionals to successfully educate our students. We had the latitude to try a variety of teaching methods to help struggling students.  Educators today are limited in how much leeway they can provide students.  Sometimes, teachers are severely restricted in how creative they can be in their own classrooms.  But, one of the most empowering things you can offer a student is choice.  Even if it’s a choice in where they sit for a party the class, or what topic they get to write about, or the order in which thy complete an assignment.  By giving students choice, we not only give them more control in their life – nothing allows a wider array of choices than an intro to entrepreneurship course where students design and create individually.

This process is at its best during experiential exercises that are entrepreneurship training.   Learning by doing fosters a sense of personal power, engenders a feeling of control, and reinforces the core of the learning objective.  It is precisely why students come alive in entrepreneurship classes at the same time they gain the motivation to preserve, overcome obstacles and create solutions to problems.  Entrepreneurship-focused programs teach students crucial life skills that will help them navigate an uncertain future. These skills include problem-solving, teamwork, empathy, as well as learning to accept failure as a part of the growth process.  

Both adults and children alike know that if they don’t like doing something, they rarely do it well. The same can be said for education, and one of the major issues in learning is that it can be perceived as boring or non-beneficial to the pupil. If a student lacks the willingness to do something, this can make an educator’s job extremely difficult, especially when you have many other pupils to cater to. To avoid these pupils falling through the cracks, motivation is key to improving the learning environment for the whole class, enabling better absorption of information and improved engagement. Ensuring motivation stays high is not just crucial for classroom study, it is essential for life skills too. When children go into adulthood, they will need the skills for self-motivation to ensure everyday tasks can be fulfilled.

To quote Susan, “having taught bullying prevention for several years at that point in time, I taught youth to label negative self-talk as “bullying thoughts.” I encouraged them to look at their thoughts by suggesting that they “Be a mind detective.” I explained, “You’ve got thoughts going through your head. As a detective, determine: Are those thoughts negative? Are they positive? Are they telling you good things about yourself or bad things about yourself? What are they telling you? If they’re telling you bad things about yourself, tell them to stop it.  She quotes famed mindset Stanford professor Carol Dweck,  “people believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.  A mindset, according to Dweck, is a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves. People can be aware or unaware of their mindsets, but they can have profound effect on learning achievement, skill acquisition, personal relationships, professional success, and many other dimensions of life.

For a well-rounded liberal arts education, schools at every level should require every student take a year of entrepreneurship so they not only survive but thrive in the digital age,  which is dependent on innovation and creativity.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  Walt Disney

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