How To Encourage Student Learning

Research shows numerous teacher behaviors positively impact student learning.  Here are some strategies to help you motivate students and foster learning in your classroom:

  1. Practice goal-setting.  Help students outline goals for classwork and behavior.  This skill will transfer to future endeavors in school and the workplace.  Ongoing efforts to integrate goal-setting into the daily curriculum will help students develop time-management and organizational skills.  Check out for step-by-step goal setting techniques and downloadable resources.
  2. Set high expectations.  Teacher expectations impact student achievement. Expect all students to perform at a high level and you will produce that behavior from students. Likewise, if you expect low achievement from particular students, they often perform poorly. So aim high and your students will reach that target. 
  3. Vary instruction.  Effective teachers use a wide range of instructional strategies to deliver curriculum.  Direct instruction methods include lecture and demonstration.  Other instructional methods, such as cooperative learning, constructivism, and discovery learning are more interactive and student-centered.  Mix up your teaching methods to maintain student interest and motivation.
  4. Tap into students' interests. Aren't you more motivated when you're doing something you like?  Students are, too.  Observe and listen to students, and take note of subjects and topics they like.  Integrate high-interest activities that reflect your students' interests into your standards-based curriculum.  
  5. Maximize time on task. Monitor students during instruction and independent seat-work.  Be available to answer questions and review content that is confusing or unclear.  Minimize distractions and transition time.  Don't forget to reward time-on-task behavior.
  6. Assess students.  In addition to formal written and oral assessments following instruction, there are numerous other ways you can assess student understanding.  Students who "get it" and feel successful will be encouraged.

    Before instruction, assess students' prior knowledge with informal question/answer discussions.  Use this information to determine your baseline of instruction.  While teaching, watch your students.  What do their expressions tell you?  Are they interested?  Confused?  Engaged?  Ask questions to check for understanding.  Allow plenty of time for students to process new information and respond.  Review difficult content for students who need extra help; have more challenging material on hand for higher performers. 

  7. Provide timely feedback.  Identify what your students do well and tell them.  Write meaningful comments and observations on written assignments.  Keep your criticism fair and constructive.  Avoid waiting too long to grade and return assignments to students - they benefit from receiving feedback while subject matter is still fresh in their minds.  Timely feedback also shows students that you're paying attention and care about their efforts.
  8. Have fun. Research shows that certain teacher characteristics encourage student learning. Be fair.  Know your subject.  Be considerate. Exercise self-control.   Let your personality shine and share your creativity and sense of humor with students.

    Trust in yourself and your students will, too.


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