It is not uncommon for children to fail to see how their learning relates to everyday living, which may lead to them questioning the relevance of academic content to future careers and survival in the real world.
Making learning applicable is very much about implementing classroom strategies in a differentiated manner to create meaningful learning opportunities for every student. Once this understanding is created, students are intrinsically motivated in their studies and more invested in learning.
Ray Martin, head of performing arts at ELC International School, shares that one of his greatest challenges comes in the form of the unmotivated learner. So how do educators overcome this?
“Teachers need to be aware of what the child is interested in, and how to engage them in their own learning. You can’t be all chalk and talk – let the child experience and discover for themselves, and be creative enough to provide different opportunities that stimulate interest in a more individual, specific and effective manner,” he says.
This requires detailed planning, preparation and appropriate resources. Martin elaborates, “There are times when you must improvise or get creative during lessons, but this can only be done when you have all the necessary tools at the students’ disposal and perhaps when the lesson isn’t going so well – which is a reality for every teacher at some point.
Sometimes, however, these are the best moments – when you find a new way for students to learn or understand a topic, skill or knowledge because the old way just wasn’t working on that particular day.”
Lakshmi Venkat, head of science at ELC International School Cyberjaya, explains how this process creates an altogether more rewarding experience for educators: “Teachers are eternal students – learning from our students keeps us ever young and inspired. The light in your students’ eyes when they finally understand a concept or have a moment of discovery is priceless motivation.”
Indeed, mutual motivation is the cornerstone of effective learning and keeping students continuously driven requires a motivated teacher. In the same manner that a good teacher can instil a love for learning, an uninspired one could find it hard to get students excited about school at all.
This phenomenon is demonstrated by the findings of a 2016 study out of the University of British Columbia, published in the Social Science & Medicine journal.
By comparing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol among more than 400 students against the burnout level of 17 teachers measured using a modified Maslach Burnout Inventory, researchers found that students were more stressed when their teachers reported higher burnout levels.
This could also begin to explain why caring and open teachers reach out to students better than those with a strict authoritarian disposition.
For children to be excited about learning, they must be interested in what the teacher has to say, and this comes from establishing a trusting, honest relationship with them.