Step away from the classroom for a minute and think about your favourite hobby. For me, my passion and hobbies are things like bushwalking, camping, gardening and sport. For you, it may be something different like knitting, cooking, craft or painting.
Irrelevant of your hobby, just reflect on what it is that you enjoy about doing it? Why are you driven to learn new skills and become more proficient?
I believe most answers will focus on the enjoyment and gratification we receive, the intrinsic rewards. For some, it may also be the extrinsic rewards of seeing the finished product or the challenge of mastering a new skill.
When it comes to doing things we like, our learning and engagement are determined by the gratification we get from the experience. We are driven to seek out information in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources, that are all relevant to our needs. The intrinsic rewards become a motivator to learn more. We may experience failure, but we then try to do something better the next time around.
Think about your classroom and the learning experience you are designing for your students.
How do you balance the pressure our system places on us to get through an already overcrowded curriculum? How do you create an experience in the classroom that is similar to the experience we feel when we are undertaking our hobby?
There is a significant amount of research that suggests learning takes place when the classroom experiences are enjoyable and relevant to the lives, interests and experiences of our students. We know that students retain what they learn when the learning is associated with strong positive emotion.
Try to manufacture for students a feeling akin to participating in a hobby by:
- Make it relevant and personal by avoiding abstract concepts.
- Create the ideal emotional atmosphere for students to feel joy, to laugh and to collaborate.
- Prioiritise the relationship so that as the teacher, you can share the experience.
Just like our hobbies allow us to seek pleasure in learning, creating this mindset and environment for our students will contribute to the success and reward for their learning.