Educator's Challenge. How do you keep your students motivated and engaged?

Many educators will agree the biggest challenge in the classroom or clinic is keeping their learners motivated. Many models and theories address this challenge, and there is one approach I’d like to share. It is John Keller’s ARCS (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction) Model of Motivation, which provides the motivational characteristics of learners and develops motivational strategies for the educator to implement.

Let’s look at each of the four characteristics of the ARCS model:

Attention: Ways to gain the attention of your students can range from simple events, like a loud sound or an upside-down word in your presentation, to varying your presentations. Students will lose interest if you’re facilitating in the same approach all the time. What can you do to capture their interest? How can you use a variety of tactics to maintain their attention?

Relevance: Your content needs to be perceived as having value to the learner. Relevance comes from connecting the content to learners’ important goals and past experiences, as well as accommodating all learning styles. Using analogies and case studies are often more effective approaches than just listing facts and statistics. How can you best meet your learners’ needs? Do you know their needs? How can you tie the instruction to the learners’ experiences?

Confidence: Educators need to build their students’ confidence. This can be accomplished by helping students understand expectations by making objectives clear and providing stories about past students’ experiences. Another part of confidence-building is helping the students accept and learn from failures. How can you assist in building realistic and achievable expectations? How will learners know their success is based on their efforts and abilities?

Satisfaction: The fourth category refers to positive feelings about one’s accomplishments and learning experiences. Student satisfaction can be achieved through receiving recognition, getting needed support, and having a feeling of being treated fairly. Consider offering certificates and other types of academic rewards for achieving a specific goal. How can you provide meaningful opportunities for learners to use their acquired knowledge and skill? What will reinforce the learners’ successes?

Once you evaluate the way you present content and actively listen to your students, you should see a change in the classroom or clinic environment, and the attitude of your students should display positive outcomes. —Diana Flores