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Motivating students to become self-directed learners

Teachers continually face the challenge of keeping their students engaged and motivated. And let’s face it. Digital learning has lost a bit of the so-called “personal teaching touch” because most of the learning, teaching and exams are done online and there’s less physical interaction. In traditional learning, teachers can directly monitor student progress and class standing, and address any concerns if there are any. In flipped/modern classrooms however, students are expected to be more independent and work on their own. Self-directness is a prerequisite in the current learning pedagogy, but many students still have trouble grasping the world of e-learning.

Remember my post on the stages of self-directed students? There are four stages of self-learning students: (1) emergent; (2) beginning; (3) developing, and; (4) mature. Of course both the student and teacher want to advance past each stage and into maturity.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. We can still enable students to participate and engage, especially those in the emergent stage. The big question, according to, is how educators can increase student engagement and participation in online learning? Engaging students goes beyond just uploading and sharing webcasts, YouTube videos, and other cloud-based learning materials.

We can't blame students for becoming disengaged and disinterested in class whenever they feel like they don't have an opportunity for growth. Teachers can be prone to over-inputting their, well, inputs on topics, assessments and any class-related resource in general. That can make students feel like they’re disconnected to the overall learning experience. Student input in the learning experience is crucial to engagement because it empowers them to become more active in class. Yes, it’s true that teachers are the primary decision-makers in classrooms but why not let students decide as well? When they are given the task of deciding this and deciding that, they assess their needs and wants so teachers can gauge how they can adapt their teaching style.

Also, it's somehow ironic that despite setting well-defined class objectives like increasing student interaction in class, there are teachers who simply don't want to give students a chance of voicing out their insights on the class. Hence, teachers should know that it's not just them who do the talking – let students have fun and give them a chance to talk and share stuff. Perhaps to make things clearer, both teacher and student could probably ask each other a few questions. What will the teacher expect from the students? What if the student is too meek to give class feedback? How will it benefit the class? A good teacher has to implement some sort of a two-sided class input and they also need to have well-defined short-term and long-term agendas.

There are lessons which bore students and things get a little too serious and not as engaging as teachers might want it to be. Students quickly lose interest because they feel like the class doesn’t perk up their mind and interests, and that’s when students start becoming passive. On the other hand, there are lessons which perk up student interest and fascination, they quickly become engaged in the learning process, start jibbering and jabbering ideas, and an instant brainstorming session is born. Whenever the teacher can relate the class to student interest, students have a tendency to naturally motivate themselves because, well, they like what’s going on and they become intensely fixated on the content because it relates to their experience. Connect the course to their interest, such as a favorite music band or a favorite video game.

And then, we can finally see more and more self-directed students who don’t need teacher intervention and guidance. You know, like, students who actively learn on their own, seeing their teacher purely as a mentor and they openly discuss and share ideas and opinions.

Speaking of opinions, if you want to share them, or if you have anything else on your mind, don’t hesitate to leave them below.

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