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« Elements of projects that motivate - Part 3 of 3 | Main | Elements of projects that motivate - Part 1 of 3 »

Elements of projects that motivate - Part 2 of 3

Here is another piece from my revision of The Indispensable Librarian. (Last week was very productive, thank you.) Your comments are welcome.

Elements of projects that motivate

Part One

Activities that involve the researcher:

  1. Motivational research projects involve a variety of information finding activities. As librarians we are comfortable with our familiar primary sources of reference books, periodicals, and trade books. Yet the answers to many personal, local, and timely questions cannot be found in them. They can provide excellent background information of important facts, but often we need to talk to experts, conduct surveys, design experiments, or look at other kinds of primary sources to get precise information. The learners in this examples spent time with secondary sources, but the generation of new knowledge by talking to their families and to a local health care provider was involving.
  2. Motivational learning tends to be hands-on. Students in the example above conducted interviews, did online database searches, and created a digital slideshow. Many of them use cameras to take photographs and videos to be used within the slideshows. They learned how to upload and share digital files. Students were learning by doing, not just listening. Notice too, how many corollary skills are practiced in this “research” project: writing skills, interviewing skills, photography skills, layout and design skills, and speaking skills.
  3. The use of technology can be exciting for many students. Whether for planning, for research, or for communication, many students find the use of technology motivating. Ms Lu’s students used computer programs that were not purposely designed to be “motivational.” It is the challenge of designing containers for a message that give good productivity tools like graphic programs, slideshow creators, and web page construction kits - the virtual equivalent of a set of LEGOs – their motivating qualities.
  4. Good projects use formats that take advantage of multiple senses. Ms Lu’s students were asked to communicate their finds not only with words, but sound and sight as well. Our ability to digitize and present information is no longer restricted to the written word but now can include drawings, photos, sounds, music, animations, and movies. All are formats that carry important and often unique information.
  5. Interesting projects are often complex, but are broken into manageable steps. One of the first things Mr. Ojampa helped students in Ms Lu’s class do was outline the tasks to be done and established a timeline for their completion. Checking off completed tasks is satisfying and motivational, and students learned some corollary planning and time management skills in the process. Large projects can be overwhelming even for adults, but planning smaller steps, building timelines, creating frequent deadlines, and scheduling multiple conferences turn complexity into manageability. It’s also clear that some tasks in effective projects often require sustained periods of time to complete, so the regular fifty-minute block of “library time” doesn't always work very well making flexibly scheduled library time is important.
  6. Collaborative learning is often stimulating and results in better products than individual work. Ms Lu asked her students to work in teams. Joint problem solving, assigning and accepting responsibility, and discovering and honoring individual talents helps create a synergy that resulted in better, more satisfying presentations than students working alone would have produced. Not every project needs to be a joint effort, but real-world work environments increasingly stress teamwork. Teamwork in school is not only more enjoyable, but leads to the application of practical interpersonal skills as well.

Assessments that Help the Learner:

  1. Motivational research projects have results that are shared with people who care and respond. Ms Lu’s kids got the same credit as those who may have simply taken a multiple choice test or written a short paper on “preventable diseases.” So why would kids go to all the extra work a project like the one described entails? Kids get hooked because adults take the time to really look at the work they have done and comment on it. The community, both physically and virtually, visited the student’s shared slideshow presentations and left comments – both compliments and criticisms. Assessments and reviews by peers, experts, and neighbors (any audience beyond the teacher) are common in scouting, athletics, dramatics, 4-H, and music organizations. Students who know they have a public audience tend to have a higher degree of concern about the quality of their work.
  2. Learning that is assessed by an authentic tool is more meaningful that a paper and pencil test. Student had the checklists at the beginning of the project and used them several times to determine their progress during the project. It was easy to recognize both what was completed as well as what needed improvement. Quality indicators like rubrics and checklists that are given to students when the assignment is made can help guide learning and keep guesswork to a minimum. As students become more sophisticated in the research process, they should be expected to choose or design their own “quality indicators” one of the attributes of a genuinely intrinsically motivated person.
  3. Examples give the learner a clear idea of what quality work looks like. Ms Lu’s class next year can use some of the diseases slideshows as exemplars. Topics may need to change enough from year to year so that copying is not possible.
  4. Well-designed projects allow the learner to reflect, revisit, revise, and improve their final projects. While Ms Lu’s class had a completion date, students continued to edit and revise their work as they received feedback from web site visitors and their peers. There is satisfaction to be gained from observed growth. Good projects, like gardens, musical repertoires, and relationships, are probably always works in progress.

Why don’t all teachers design projects with some or all of these elements. Well, a 4th “A” sneaks in. (See Part 3 tomorrow.)

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Reader Comments (1)

Activities that sparks a person's interest can always motivate that person. Team-building activities are also highly recommended. You could also try doing activities that would improve a person's communication skills.

Communication Skills

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica

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