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How can we fully engage our students in the term ahead?

As the new academic year begins in many places around the world, it's great to see so many schools welcoming their students back through the doors. On the journey back to some semblance of ‘normality’ it is important that we consider how we can re-engage with our students. This has a particular edge to it this year after 18 months of disruption and uncertainty due to the global pandemic.

A key part of re-engagement will be ensuring that our students are motivated and encouraged in their efforts as they get back into the routine of the classroom. Ask any teacher - good student motivation sits at the heart of successful learning. Without motivated students teaching becomes increasingly difficult, with too much time spent on ‘crowd control’ rather than the business of teaching.

In reality though, for many schools and teachers, student motivation is low, and as a result behaviour is a problem. This eats up teaching time, with behaviour management dominating the classroom process. This can lead to a focus on the negative aspects of behaviour management and a lack of recognition for student achievements. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that information on students is stored in a variety of places leading to a fragmented, incomplete picture of each learner. Finally, what information there is can sit exclusively with the teacher. Parents are only involved when things escalate and have little engagement with their child’s school experience.

So what are the requirements for better student motivation and successful behaviour management?  Nudge theory talks about the EAST framework to make sure that the actions we are taking will fully engage those we are working with. Whatever we want people to do needs to be Easy, Attractive, Socially normal and Timely.

EASY - if we want someone to behave in a particular way, then we need to make it easy for them to do so. Teachers want more time to teach so we need to make it easy for teachers to recognise, reward and track the achievements of their students. Furthermore we need to simplify classroom management, by giving them the tools they need to organise and manage their students and classroom activities, together in one accessible space.

ATTRACTIVE - it seems obvious, but there needs to be a clear benefit to teachers, students and parents if they are to engage with the process. Above all, motivation needs to be the primary focus. It's a very simple equation: Better motivated students leads to more focus and less poor behaviour. In turn, this means that teachers can teach, and learners can learn. Motivation has two aspects to it - we need to make it easy for students to engage with their studies, and recognise them when they are successful.

SOCIALLY NORMAL - make sure that those involved see that the activities you are asking them to participate in are socially normal, that is everyone else is doing them already. By providing a collaborative environment, where everyone is part of the conversation, we can go a long way to normalising good behaviour and engagement in learning.

TIMELY - we need to meet a particular need at any one time. Ongoing visibility of each student's learning journey is crucial in this regard, and needs to be available for everyone involved - teachers, students, parents and school leaders. The support of parents is particularly important. We have to give them the insights and understanding they need to support their child effectively and celebrate their successes.

Motivation and engagement are key aspects of a positive school experience. When we get this right, students are excited to learn new things and the standard of work improves. Teachers have more time to help students make better progress, and behaviour is no longer a problem at the school; everybody feels safe and supported.

If you’re interested in discovering different ways which schools are rewarding their students - please do register for our upcoming webinar on Wednesday 22nd September: Using EdTech to boost motivation & engagement.

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