It is not Entertainment!

We should not over-focus on making things interesting or enjoyable

We are seeing a need to shift from reward and punishment (controlled motivation) to supporting autonomous motivation.

Over-focusing on making things interesting or enjoyable for students can turn content or pedagogy into entertainment and run the risk of losing or diluting the learning.  This can be a tendency when we do not have a full grasp on how students can be autonomously motivated to do work that is neither interesting nor enjoyable.

We know two circumstances in which this does occur.  The first is when a student is from a tightly knit family with high expectations for education.  The student does not want to let their family down so does the work that they are required to do.  The other is a situation that we have looked at before, where about 5% of teachers (those that we remember our whole lives) can inspire this level of motivation in all the students they have.

In both cases it is connection with a person that is the key motivating factor.

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We know that many students do not come from tightly knit home environments with high expectations for education.  That is just a fact of life.

If we want to motivate such students without using controlled motivation – and we must accept that that is the case - then the key is to build the sort of connection with students that some teachers already do and that some families already do.

We do need to focus on curriculum and pedagogy, but we also need to focus on developing educators so that they can connect with students in a way that supports and nourishes autonomous motivation.  As humans we are built this way, we grow healthily in connection with other humans.

It is time that we got this properly on the radar and gave it the sorts of resources that we put into developing curriculum.

John Corrigan