Motivating the “I Don’t Care” generation………

Well, I have started my class and it truly is amazing as well as everything that I have imagined!  I now know that in 4th grade when I said I was going to be a mom, a nurse, and a teacher when I grew up, I was right……I had it all figured out at the ripe old age of 10 years!  HAHA!  But, now that I have started teaching, I am posed with new problems that I never knew I would face.  After administering the first test and hearing each and everyone of the students complain about it, I couldn’t help but wonder……what did I do wrong?  I know it wasn’t me; I know the test was good and that the material was covered.  What was new to me was the fact that it appears some students are unmotivated or have the “I don’t care” attitude.  To be honest, this is shocking to me and I am wondering how I can motivate the “I don’t care” generation?  What techniques have any of you used to correct this?  What worked, what didn’t?  I am hoping to find references and answers from you, my colleagues, to help me move forward…………..hope to hear from you soon!

One thought on “Motivating the “I Don’t Care” generation………

  1. Your idealism has obviously been tempered by a dose of realism. In light of your plea for help, support, and enlightenment, I have some questions about your class:

    1. Is it a core course or a general studies course?

    2. You mentioned “hearing each and everyone of the students complain about it (test)” – what kind of a test? Essay, objective, a combination of essay and objective, connecting learning to life or?

    3. You stated that you “know the test was good and that the material was covered” – was the test valid and reliable?

    4. Thus far, many ideas have been submitted to SPARK – you might want to check out the tags; I just submitted a couple of submissions to SPARK about multiple choice tests, and giving my students the final comprehensive on the first day of class; they have not complained, but are busy working on the questions as we move through the course.

    5. Finally, a personal reflection on my one third hypothesis:

    I was reading a thought-provoking and shocking article and it is relevant to your concern about motivating the “I do not care generation” which transcends generations. For some, it is not only a question of learning to unlearn, it is a question of learning the fundamentals in the first place. The authors write:

    “Unfortunately, most students arrive with a relatively low level of motivation to learn. What is more, they have few of the skills essential to the process of learning. Most have a predictable set of deficiencies that it does well to recognize from the outset so that one can take them into account in the design and conduct of instruction. In our experience, the following characterizations profile the weaknesses of the overwhelming majority of students.

    In general, students:

    1. do only what is required of them
    2. tend to put off work on a project until they have a pressing deadline
    3. are weak listeners, readers, writers, oral communicators, do not use language with precision and care, have no intellectual standards, do not know how to assess – their own work, their own thinking, their own emotions, and their own life.

    Each of these characteristics, when present, requires instructional strategies that act as a corrective for them. For example, if students do only what is required to do and put off work on projects until they have a pressing deadline, then we have little choice but to design instruction so that there are frequent requirements.”

    (How to Improve Student Learning by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, page 34 — 2007 – foundation for critical thinking press)

    In my over forty years of teaching, coaching, and facilitating the educational process with high school and college students, I would certainly agree with the above quotation with varying degrees of exception. In every class I have taught, I can divide the class among three categories: one-third are highly motivated and will do well regardless; one-third are open to learning and are thinking – WIIFM – what is in it for me? and the final one – third have little motivation regardless of how creative the teacher is at designing strategies to light a fire within. This group may or may not be influenced by the other two-thirds of the students. Therein lies the challenge, but then again it reflects the 80-20 principle. In my thinking critically and creatively courses, this final third complains that they are thinking too hard and their head hurts.

    The first one/third ( estimated 30% )are highly motivated and will do well and their motivation is fueled by the passion and positive attitude of the instructor; here are some optional student testimonies for you to draw your own conclusions:

    1. “ You go beyond teaching, you live by what you teach. You were able to push me to really think, and understand people. I appreciated your class so much and I’m glad I took it. Yourself as a person is someone to be admired. You set a good example of what a good person should be, it’s hard to find people like that today. I just wanted to send this message to thank you.”

    2. “With every chapter I feel like I am broadening my horizons. I feel like I am more accepting of something different each time I read something new. Before entering this class I would have classified myself as an open-minded person but I find I am learning new things all the time. I can honestly say I am really enjoying this course.”

    3. “I have taken some of the ideas and concepts we are learning in this class and used them in my own personal life as well as in other classes with other students and teachers. I really am thankful for this class.”

    4. “I cannot even begin to explain how this chapter has started churning the wheels in my mind. It has sparked so much internal investigation into the truths I hold in my personal and professional lives. Knowing now that the majority of my truths were most likely created or influenced has urged me to evaluate specific recollections in my mind. I very much enjoyed this chapter. It has left me yearning for more information. I cannot wait to dive into further chapters and quench this ever-growing thirst for the unknown.”

    The second one/third ( estimated 60%) are skeptical at first and reserving their judgment before they begin to expand their horizons, become more interested, and begin to blend with the first third – here are some of their optional testimonies:
    1. “This class is more interesting than what I was thinking it would be. I am very happy with what I have learned so far and very excited to see what is yet to come!”

    2. “As this class is coming to a close I am getting more comfortable with opening my mind to others’ thoughts. I don’t know if it will change my mind but it will make me more empathetic to others’ points of view.”

    3. “In the beginning of this class I thought I could (for lack of a better word) bull…. my way through. I quickly learned that that was not the case, and I am glad that I found that out. I have gotten a lot out of taking the course seriously, and would have missed out if I had not changed my view.”

    4. “This course is honestly having more of an effect on me than I had predicted. I was thinking it might end up being a lot of useless information that I would have to just get through. However, I find the material to be much more relevant and useful than I had at first supposed.”

    The third one/third ( estimated 10%) are skeptical from the beginning, maintain their skepticism, claim they have not benefited much from the class nor were they motivated; and they tend to blame the teacher. While I have pulled out all of the stops to motivate them, captivate them, or cultivate them, nevertheless they seem to slip through my academic fingers; and the reasons are legion.

    1. “ This class did not do much to aid my program”

    2. “Course was not relevant; the way you grade is poor, we really did not know our progress until the last day; you need to say what you want us to know clearly; you could teach the greatest truths, but if not received, you have failed”

    3. “Really didn’t learn much…a little confusing at times.”

    4. “I believe that making this class a requirement is for the most part unnecessary; I must admit that I have not learned that much useful information.”

    Finally, on page one of my syllabus I go through the following quotations with my students asking them what do these quotations mean?

    Quotations worthy of reflection and reflective of my philosophy of education and philosophy of learning——————–

    “Critical thinking is skeptical without being cynical. It is open-minded without being wishy-washy. It is analytical without being nit-picky. Critical thinking can be decisive without being stubborn, evaluative without being judgmental, and forceful without being opinionated.” Facione, Think Critically, 2013.

    “The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates

    “A teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Gahlil Gibran

    “When the students are ready to learn, then the master will come.” Confucius

    “Everything we hear is more opinion than fact, and everything we see is more perception than truth.” Marcus Aurelius

    “Change the way you look at reality and the reality you look at changes.” Wayne Dryer

    “Learning without thought is labor lost, and thought without learning is perilous” – Confucius

    “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. 

    Willing is not enough; we must do.”
    ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Roger J. Vanden Busch

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