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How to spark adult students’ intrinsic motivation

What is the learner’s intrinsic motivation to learn? It is the interest in the subject itself and the spontaneous passion to get to know more. As most adult learners are motivated by some practical rewards like promotion opportunities, better pay or prospect of gaining some prestiges, how to spark their intrinsic motivation is an issue all the adult educators have to face. Here’s a resource of strategies for that I think really practical and helpful. Come and have a look, and you will find it worthwhile.

Nine Strategies to Spark Adult Students’ Intrinsic Motivation in Faculty Focus.

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The puzzle of motivation

As we all know, motivation plays a very important role in our learning or working, and many of us may know intrinsic motivation plays a decisive role while extrinsic motivation plays a critical role in some circumstances. But in actual reality it is the incentives, i.e. extrinsic motivation, that we resort to most in promoting learning or productivity probably because providing incentives or extrinsic motivation is the easiest or most convenient way of getting things done immediately without considering the long-term interests or benefits. However, in the long run providing incentives or extrinsic motivation can lead to harmful effects or do harms to long-term productivity. Though it is already proved by researches and studies, it is hard to believe, what Dan Pink called “the puzzle of motivation” in his 2009 TedTalk. I’d like to recommend this video to all educators. You will find it interesting and informative.

Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation

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understanding essential questions

As educators, we need to raise questions to get the learner engaged in genuine critical thinking. Then what kind of questions are quality questions that can really help cultivate the learner’s deep thinking and help the learner learn to raise thought-provoking questions too? Essential questions. The article “What is an Essential Question?” by Grant Wiggins gives us a very good illustration about essential questions and how these essential questions can keep us pondering and reflecting on our learning, our work and our life as a thoughtful person and how these questions can help the learner to learn effectively. I especially like the three connotations of the concept Grant explains and the following descriptions:

“A question is essential when it:

  • causes genuine and relevant inquiry into the big ideas and core content;
  • provokes deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understanding as well as more questions;
  • requires students to consider alternatives, weigh evidence, support their ideas, and justify their answers;
  • stimulates vital, on-going rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons;
  • sparks meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experiences;
  • naturally recurs, creating opportunities for transfer to other situations and subjects.”
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visible learning

In participating in the discussion forums in PIDP 3250, I learned a lot new concepts, one of which is Visible Learning. After doing some research, I found a very good description about this concept here in this book summary: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie. I am deeply impressed by and resonate a lot with descriptions like

“~ When teaching and learning are “visible” – that is, when it is clear what teachers are teaching and what students are learning, student achievement increases.

The ‘visible’ refers to a few things. First, it refers to making student learning visible to teachers so they can know whether they are having an impact on this learning. Further, it also refers to making teaching visible to the student as well so that students learn to become their own teachers, an important component of becoming lifelong learners – something we want students to value. The ‘learning’ part of visible learning — and a common theme throughout the book — is the need to think of teaching with learning in the forefront and with the idea that we should consider teaching primarily in terms of its impact on student learning.

When the teaching is visible the student knows what to do and how to do it. When the learning is visible the teacher knows if learning is occurring or not. Teaching and learning are visible when the learning goal is not only challenging but is explicit. Furthermore, both the teacher and the student work together to attain the goal, provide feedback, and ascertain whether the student has attained the goal. Evidence shows that the greatest effects on student learning come when not only the students become their own teachers (through self-monitoring, and self-assessment), but the teachers become learners of their own teaching (to be explained below). In successful classrooms, both the teaching and learning are visible.

A key part of successful teaching and learning has to do with the teacher’s mind frame – the teacher’s view of his or her role. It is critical that teachers see themselves as evaluators of their effects on students. Seeking interventions and actions that have positive effects on student learning (d > 0.40) should be a constant goal for teachers. Teachers should be vigilant to see what is working and what is not working in the classroom. Then teachers must use this evidence to inform their actions and their use of every possible resource (especially peers) to move students from where they are now to where the teacher thinks they should be. It is when a teacher has an appropriate mind frame combined with appropriate actions that these two work together to achieve a positive learning effect. We need to help teachers develop a mind frame in which they see it as their primary role to evaluate their effect on learning.”

A very informative and meaningful resource for teachers!


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How to encourage learners to ask questions in class

As raising questions is of critical importance to effective learning, how to encourage the learner to raise good probing questions becomes a chief concern for us instructors. In the article, Emphasis on Teaching: the Importance of Questions, Marshall Brain starts his emphasis on the importance of questioning in teaching, and goes on with suggestions on how to encourage learners to ask questions in class, including some ways to promote the learner’s questions and how to avoid negative pressures which keep the learners from asking questions. I especially love his closing remarks, “A good question-asking environment is a fragile and delicate thing. It must be nurtured every day. Once a good environment is created however, it can make a significant contribution to the quality of your class.” It show how critically importance to create and maintain a positive learning environment in education.

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Socratic Questioning: an important way to engage learners in critical thinking

Socratic questioning has been gaining attention and currency in recent years especially in teaching and learning. It usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems, and has great impact on our thinking and teaching and learning. The article “The Role of Socratic Questioning in Thinking, Teaching, and Learning” analyses the importance of asking powerful question in our teaching and learning from different aspects in great depth. I am especially impressed by and resonate with the following parts:

“In fact, every intellectual field is born out of a cluster of questions to which answers are either needed or highly desirable. Furthermore, every field stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously as the driving force in a process of thinking. To think through or rethink anything, one must ask questions that stimulate thought.”

“Answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life as such.”

“If we want to engage students in thinking through our content we must stimulate their thinking with questions that lead them to further questions.”


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What do we need to have in mind in following groupthink?

We are now living in an era when teamwork, group work and social work is favoured so much that individual private work is almost overwhelmed or ignored. At his time maybe we need to hear some different voices. The article in New York Times gives us something meaningful and thought-provoking. I especially love this part and would like to share it here in the quote.

“And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.”

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learning how to learn

Thanks to our classmate’s posting on the great discussion forums of PIDP 3250, I found this passionate lecture of professor Barbara Oakley from Oakland University very informative and enlightening. It sheds much light on my understanding about teaching and learning. Taking adventures and getting new perspectives are also of great importance in our learning. Here’s the link:


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5 ways to address students’ resistance in the flipped classroom

Flipped classrooms are attractive new teaching methodology. They can engage learners in active learning and help learners become more autonomous in their lifelong learning. But as any new thing may meet resistance, this new methodology might also encounter learners’ resistance because they can hardly stay lazy and passive in flipped classrooms. How to deal with learners’ resistance in the flipped classrooms? Here’s a good resource.


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Towards Self-directedness in learning

Adult learners are assumed as self-directed learners, but as we may know, not all adult learners are self-directed or they are not self-directed in all subjects they learn. So how should we understand the learner’s ability to be self-directed? Is it teachable? Here in his article, Grow gives us a positive answer to this question and tells us how to teach learners to be self-directed.



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