How can teachers consistently set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge students?
Our role as educators can seem like mission-impossible. Teachers have a clear idea of what constitutes high expectations, yet upholding them in any classroom can be a never-ending struggle.
Here are 7 ways to inspire, motivate and challenge our students:
1. Differentiate between inspiration, motivation and challenge
Teachers’ expectations can be described as three-fold, with these aspects below guiding learning and progress:
- Inspiration and generating interest in a topic.
- Motivation and laying foundations to remain on-task.
- Challenge towards achieving maximum capabilities.
Griffith and Burns (2012) highlight that when challenge is calibrated to stretch learners, it enhances perseverance skills. Therefore, teachers must consider each of the above elements in any lesson by consolidating facts that are purposeful to learning. It is not realistic to have all three components in each lesson, but if a teacher aims for regular application, expectations can rise.
2. Motivate ourselves to motivate them!
Teachers must be self-motivated to show that they are genuinely concerned about student progress. Our self-reflection must be solution-based to remain on track with setting expectations. Sherrington (2017) suggests that high expectations contribute to a climate conducive for effective learning.
3. Inspiration + innovation = independence
Teachers should foster interest in a topic that resonates with students. Then, they are increasingly likely to seek to build upon what has inspired them. Gravells and Wallace (2013) suggest that the turning point is when students become intrinsically motivated rather than through fear of sanctions.
4. Increase ‘end-goal awareness’
Would the world’s best sports performers still be as motivated on a daily basis if they were not in a league or cup competitions? Students are no different.
Teachers must strive towards setting goals that students can pitch themselves against and that we as teachers can monitor. Rossa (2014) highlights the need to develop skills for employment in conjunction with a student’s aims to pass the course.
5. Can fun and high-expectations co-exist?
If teachers neglect to inspire our students, we risk creating an expanding list of those disregarding our lessons. Wallace (2017) suggests that students may lack motivation because they feel that a teacher cannot be bothered to plan! If planning is linked to high self-expectations, teachers then avoid penalising ourselves.
6. Share expectations with colleagues and students’ home contacts
Teachers must proactively seek to support a school’s vision and values. They must also seek to communicate with the student’s home on a regular basis. To create transparency, we should ensure all supporting networks are aware of teacher-expectations. Sherrington (2017) promotes the idea that consistent expectations and routines ensure classroom management is understood and adhered to.
7. Acknowledge students’ improvements
Teachers want students to feel valued and appreciated in their classroom. Positive phone calls home and rewards can gain some initial trust with students and instil expectations. However, James (2016) implies that rewards can work in the short-term, but must be coupled with a long-term drive towards independent learning. Griffith and Burns (2014) suggest that students feel threatened and withdraw from tasks pitched too high.
If we balance the bar correctly, students will expect to be inspired, motivated and challenged. If we fail, teachers risk students shutting down and losing confidence. The power is in our hands and we must not give up on them.
Providing regular feedback and praise will show we want to maintain expectations for all ability levels.