Hop on over to YouTube. In the search bar, type in “Bored in school.” When the results pop up, you will see that there are over 25 THOUSAND videos that were either filmed while bored at school or were thought up during that same “lull” time.
It’s not the latest research. One need only watch the first 30 seconds of the video to know what’s happening: lack of attention and motivation. It’s common knowledge that teens have a harder time staying focused and motivated in work settings than adults do. Adults can look at a situation and usually discern some value in the mundane; teens – for the most part – usually look at a situation and dryly ask, “When will I ever use this?” The result is that they operate with low motivation, which keeps them from advancing. Out of desperation, parents and teachers try a host of things to get a student motivated. Personal tutoring, special classes, or extra attention at home can help, but motivation will stay low unless the student takes interest in what she’s doing.
With almost 30 years of research under our belt, we’ve found a number of factors that play into a student’s motivation, or lack thereof. The most important stems from a simple question:
“What’s In It For Me?” or WIIFM (pronounced wiffem) is what our kids need to be asking themselves in the classroom. Most likely, they’re already asking this question, but for the wrong reasons. WIIFM works because it is a step-based process and we know that we tend to be less overwhelmed when we can take things in “baby steps”. Jimmy knows that he wants to go to college, so his first baby step is paying attention in math class. The next baby step is studying for the big test. Maybe even asking that cute girl he sits across from to be a study partner. And so on. Helping kids and teens find the relationship between what they are being taught and the life that they’re living is the key to switching a “So what?” attitude to a “Now what?’ attitude. Learning is brought to life when students begin to connect the seemingly abstract events in their lives to who they are and their interests.
There are certainly other aspects that play into the enthusiasm with which a student looks at school and it is safe to say that some of the responsibility rests with our teachers. Much of the training we do with our Quantum Learning for Teachers professional development program focuses on facilitating effective classroom management based on motivation and designing engaging lessons that make content more meaningful.
The responsibility, however, always falls on the listener. By encouraging our children to be thinking ahead and thinking about what they want, we are helping them to become proactive, motivated learners – regardless of the situation.