My students need to be more motivated!

This article first appeared in my inbox, as private comments made by an undergraduate programme lecturer. It is of such interest that I thought a wider audience should consider it. Many lecturers may feel like this, but it is difficult to know where to voice these opinions, or to know how to improve the level of engagement of some students, who would do so much better in their studies if their level of engagement was higher (PL).

One of the most persistent problems I face is getting the students to do the set reading and take adequate notes in lectures.??In our subject area we are very concerned about the students’ cursory attitude towards reading.??It’s as if they think that it’s something that can be compressed into as short a time as possible for a purpose that’s equivalent to summary or bullet points of information. We want the students to immerse themselves over time in the reading. Many seem to think of it as an obstacle or a compulsion to be sped through. Even where material is posted up free on Weblearn, many do not read it, take notes on it or bring it to class, even where detailed reading guides are provided. Can SocialMet address this in one of the question rounds or poster campaigns???


We need to know what they (the students) think set reading is for; what they feel like when other students don’t do the set reading; what they feel like in class when they don’t do the set reading; what function they think set reading should have in relation to lecture content. It seems to me that many students, especially in the first year, think that coming along to two-thirds of the lectures, sitting there for an hour without having done the set reading then attending seminars without the set texts or any lecture notes is acceptable.??


There’s a worrying passivity in many students that we won’t address so long as we continue to ask them what they want from the institution. We need to get them to consider very seriously what they think the institution wants from them. In the mode of consumers they are too ready to think that the degree is something like a commodity that can be transferred from us to them. How can we get them to reflect on knowledge as something that emerges out of their relationships to their reading and to tutors???Part of this involves their willingness to test being wrong in their interpretation of the reading by offering it up in seminar discussions. It is important also to consider the embarrassment they think they might feel by publicly exposing themselves to criticism or correction.


I would like to know how they respond to not understanding material in the set texts, in seminars or in lectures, and how exploratory they are in reading around problems when they arise. I’d also like to know what kinds of responses from other students would encourage them to read more. How we can get them to shift our place in their minds from stick to carrot? What makes them want to do the reading? What would make them read more???