Developing the Motivation to Learn

Source: KQED Mindshift, Nov 2013

“One of the key elements of helping students develop more intrinsic motivation is developing relationships, knowing what students are genuinely interested in and being able to connect with that,”

“Unfortunately, often times in our schools, the standardization of both testing and lessons do not leave time for trying to help students develop that inner capacity,” Ferlazzo said. “It’s more let’s get through the chapters, whether it’s connected to students’ lives and their vision, or not.” Ferlazzo kept his eye on the goal of writing persuasively and was able to show flexibility that gave the student space to learn on his own terms.

“For a lot of our students, having them just involved in deciding what kind of homework to get is a good first step for developing a sense of power,” Ferlazzo said. And when they are given that opportunity to make the learning experience their own they care more. Ferlazzo challenges his students to think about why learning to read and write is important in their lives as they envision it. His students keep “life skills notebooks” to think through how what they learn in school connects to their experience of life.


Helping students to think about how they learn and to assess themselves is the Ferlazzo’s big goal. “We want students to be able to see it in their self-interest to be thinking about their thinking when we’re not around, when they’re not even going to get graded on their meta-cognition and awareness,” he said. If students can do that, they will not only be more motivated, but they will have a deeper skill to take with them beyond the classroom.

This version of personalized learning is quite different from the data-driven computer-based learning dominating education conversations today. Ferlazzo is all for data, but he doesn’t think tech-based data collectors are assessing some of the most critical data points.

He’s thinking about the quality of student questions, whether they are relating topics to other things they’ve learned, and if they can effectively help a peer learn. Helping students to identify personal learning styles, tricks to improve research and studying and an awareness of how he or she learners, is much more personalized than any data report spit out by a computer.


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