For the past few years I’ve used a student motivation survey with my class. The survey is used for reflection purposes and to plan for the next school year. This year approximately 80 students in grades 3 – 5 answered questions related to what helps them learn best. The statements are below (click picture to enlarge).
I usually explain each question to the class and then the students individually respond as they see fit. After the results were compiled and averaged (1 being the most important, 10 being the least), I shared the top three motivators. They are as follows:
- The teacher shows she/he cares about you and the other students in class – 1.20 / 10
- The teacher is fair to all students in the classroom – 1.22 / 10
- The teacher allows you to use technology to learn – 2.02 / 10
After the results were presented, the class had a discussion regarding why they felt the motivators were especially important. I also shared that the results were very similar to last year’s results. One key takeaway was that having a teacher that cared about them was extremely vital in motivating students to learn. This isn’t surprising, but a passionate teacher can be contagious and elementary students often feed off of that excitement. Another takeaway, relationships matter in the classroom. Also, it seems that technology continues to play an increasingly important role in the learning process.
I then presented the bottom three categories. The bottom three aren’t necessarily negative, but they scored the least important out of all the categories. The class then discussed why they felt like those categories deserved a less than stellar score.
- The teacher gives choices to complete an assignment – 5.51 / 10
- The teacher allows you to move around the classroom – 4.43 / 10
- The teacher gives assignments that connect to the real world – 3.53 / 10
At that point I thought it might be beneficial to bring up the topic of motivation and rewards in the classroom. This year I decided to eliminate material rewards (pencils, stickers, auctioned prizes, etc.) to reward my elementary students. It took some research and a bit of teeth grinding, but I went cold turkey with the external rewards this year. This was a shift from years in the past. After analyzing the positive results and increase in student ownership, I may do the same next school year.