Maintaining motivation to enquire

Asking a driving question laced with teen-interesting dilemmas and undertones get’s their attention – once. It’s my belief that when kids experience teachers asking them questions which they feel is because they are a person of interest – so they pay attention. If they don’t detect this feeling, it’s taken as a disingenuous attempt to disguise “school-work”. They’ll probably comply, but with no HUD display over their head via your ARG powered iPad – how do you tell?

Kids, like adults pay more attention to “meaningful work” and that is motivating.

I’m going to explain how to experiment with this, so in anticipation, I’d love it if you could TWEET this for me, just to get the ball rolling.

If not, you are not allowed to read the rest. Deal?

How to maintain the learning rage

The challenge of PBL is not to motivate students (though I believe it can awaken them from sleep if teachers know how). The challenge is to keep them motivated during an enquiry.  This, I don’t see being explained by the popular PBL-talkers too much, so I thought I’d add it.  It’s not a learning thing, they teach you this in ad-school.

We are bombarded with brain-memos, the loudest being “is this too easy or too hard right now”. If ourbrain say’s yes or even maybe then we are likely to feel bored. Bored kids invent less boring realities for teachers – which teachers tend to dislike. Adults are no better, at conferences some people actually fall asleep in response, where most of us politely disappear into cyber-interests.

You are a person of interest

To keep kids interested – and therefore at least willing to pay attention to school work, a great PBL teacher learns how to see (and treat) kids as a person of interest. I don’t give a monkeys about your learning-cycles, design thinking steps – unless you can find ways to show kids (or adults) they are a person of interest – they are mentally out of there ASAP.

Imaginative Education Trick: Level 1

Here’s one from the IE box of tricks, it’s a trust builder – as trust comes before powerpoint (snigger).

Using sleek, smooth, plush, slick, salty, hot, crisp, and juicy, which combination of two would make…

                            …the ideal teacher for you? 

                            …the ideal friend for you?

                            …the ideal enemy that could defeat you?

                            …the ideal minion for you?

                            …the ideal leader of the free world?

                            …the ideal sauce?

                            …the ideal snack food?

If students respond, let’s agree that you got their attention. Ding, level up. If not, check for signs of life – they might be so deep in sleep we’ll need to do something more radical. But I digress …

Getting students motivated (again and again) is best achieved by deliberately tapping into their emotions and saying to them – you are a person of interest to me.

Imaginative Education Trick: Level 2

Split kids into two groups – Get them to sit around and talk about the next 10 years (10 year being infinity to kids). This pitches the conversation out into their imagination and away from more immediate anxieties and pressures.  Give them 10 mins for each question, then get them to explain the differences (critical thinking).

Ask them – “In 10 years …

“How Much Better Do You Want To Feel?”


“How Much Happier Do You Want To Be?”

Now give them 10 mins to list out

“in 10 years,  what are five things that will get you there?”

When they’ve done that,ask each individual to come up with five steps for each thing that they think will help them as individuals – which should round you up to an hour.

If they can do this, then chances are your students will make great PBL students once you get your head around this stuff and they’ll leave, wondering what all that was about … kids who wonder about stuff as they leave are engaged.

Don’t be afraid to ask them using the good old voice box to target kids with emotionally provocative questions which are not in the syllabus.

PBL teachers learn how to use these bad-boys. It’s challenging because teacher questions are (historically) tied to a certain Blooms taxonomy (aligned with selected content) which disrupts the way our minds naturally question the world and each other. Natural language is impossible to achieve therefore communicative learning is equally un-realistic.

Think how dumb it would be if each time you came home from work and your partner asked “list what you did to today” followed by “compare this day to any other day” … see it’s just not a natural way to learn or communicate with others is it?

Here are some templates to use:

How Much Better…..?

How Much Energy ….?

How much more/less time …?

Is this the same as…..?

Isn’t it time you….?

Isn’t this the most unusual….?

Is this the most …?

Is that the least?

Wouldn’t you be better off……?

This is of course how advertising works. So if you have a design background you’ll be saying “deh” right now. In ad-land, we’d write “How much younger do you want to look?” where as in education we’re asking “how much more do you want to learn”. This to me is why you should get someone to teach you about PBL – most kids are told what to learn, what the limits (and consequences for not learning) are. This is of course stupid, but convenient.

Tapping into emotions using these kind of lead in questions will allow you to re-tap personal-emotional motivation – but over time, you’ll forget and it will just be natural. So if you’re tire of the same old battles with student bevaviour, buy a PBL coach.