Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Motivating students through project-based service learning.

Summary: This informative article on motivating students interested me due to its focus on motivation through project based learning. The article suggests that teacher effectiveness is hampered most by a lack of student motivation. This lack of motivation can also obviously lead to an increased student dropout rate. The article also suggests that a lack of teacher encouragement can also directly lead to students underperforming. This article basically addresses strategies to help motivate students. The author reinforces the notion of students learning most effectively when they are creating their own learning opportunities. Students who are actively involved in their learning tend to retain information for much longer periods than do students who are simply lectured to in a classroom. It is also mentioned that technology based projects are likely to further increase student understanding. These projects are also strong motivators for students to apply themselves to a task.

Project- based service learning opportunities are even more likely to engage students as they work with real world problems. These learning opportunities will engage students in work that matters to them, and as a result, will also motivate them. If students can also apply real world problems to a myriad of different subject in their curriculum through careful integration by different teachers, students will be further encouraged to be active learners, who will also retain information. Project-based learning also allows students to use these real world, technologically based service learning projects to foster relationships among their peers as they work collaboratively to solve a problem. Teamwork also allows students to develop problem solving skills, as well as oral and written communication skills. These skills are all necessary as students enter the business world.

This article includes a number of fascinating “project success stories” which show the process of service learning project based learning in action in schools across California. Students in Sacramento are given the task of tracking down serial arsonists in their community. They are urged to work with local police and fire departments as they develop a mapping program to track fires and their causes in Sacramento. Students in Riverside County are given the problem of helping to reduce gang violence in their county. They do this by working to produce an authentic film on the dangers of gang involvement. This film can then be shown to “at risk” youths in their communities.

Quotes: “As most educators intuitively know, students learn more when they are creating their own learning opportunities. The "tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand" concept is being acknowledged and implemented in classes nationwide”.
“Students apply and integrate the content of different subject areas at authentic moments in the production process, instead of in isolation or in an artificial setting. Thus, learning becomes relevant and useful as students establish connections to life outside of school. Authentic projects also help to address real-world concerns and develop real-world skills”.

Relevance to my practice: Articles like this just further reinforce my belief that project-based real work application projects not only motivate students to learn, but also encourage students to want to retain information. This article is also very relevant to my practice due to the fact that my school has a fully developed service learning program which I am involved in. I got lots of ideas for the development of projects for my students in the service learning course.

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