All teachers are motivated to find a solution to unmotivated students, but is there anything that can actually be done? Recent research into cognitive science suggests two strategies, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin writes in ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine: cognitive interest cues and personal goal setting. Examples of cognitive interest cues that can be incorporated into classroom practice are real-life problems, personal connections to learning, and curiosity-provoking questions. While these techniques haven’t been studied in isolation, they have been incorporated into interventions that were associated with learning gains of several months to a year-plus.
Personal goal setting, meanwhile, is a way of shepherding the effortful thinking that is required for learning but that most of us, if left to our own devices, try to avoid. Characterizing several studies he reviewed, Bryan comments, “Learning goals are only powerful if students internalize them as their own—when they use them to commit to learning.”