Center for Teaching Excellence

Murphy Building
600 Forbes Avenue 20 Chatham Square
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
Email: cte@duq.edu
Phone: 412.396.5177

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    Motivation after Spring Break

    Returning from spring break is hard for faculty and students.  Whether you used break for fun or work, getting back on track and regaining momentum are essentials for successfully completing the semester.  Motivation is a factor that both students and faculty must nurture.  You have a role in producing motivation.  In Thinking about Teaching and Learning (p. 74), Robert Leamnson says:

    Motivation is something that students must initiate.  Fortunately, the initiation is not impervious to outside influence.  Some teachers manage to do something, or be something, that persuades students to read about, talk about, and write about content, and so learn it.

    For Faculty

    Motivating Students after Spring Break

    1. Assess where you are and map out what needs covered to maximize student learning in the final half of the semester.  Remember to focus on quality learning and avoid the error of thinking that learning happens simply through “teaching by mentioning it.” (Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 21.)

    2. Greet students and enquire about their spring break – Reconnecting with your students after break shows that you value them as people and increases the likelihood that they will in turn show interest to the course materials.

    3. Vary your Teaching Style

    a. Arrange for a guest presenter.

    b. Show a video.

    c. Devote part of a class to reviewing the major issues covered so far, preview, and outline what is coming for the remainder of the term.

    d. Invite student participation in a new way --  Ask students to comb newspapers, magazines, journals, websites, and YouTube for relevant examples of what the course has covered and to bring the materials to share with the class.

    e. Play music before the beginning of class that relates to the material.  For an article on this practice and its impact on students, see the article by White and Finck, “Get in Rhythm before Class,” Journal of College Teaching and Learning 3, no. 1 (2006): 41-50. (http://www.cluteinstitute-onlinejournals.com/PDFs/2006151.pdf)  For a physics professors list of songs relating to course topics, click here.  (http://www.phy.cmich.edu/people/daum1kc/)

    4. Congratulate accomplishments to help students sense their mastery of the materials and to encourage further learning.  A sense of mastery is a major motivational issue in learning.  Students who sense achievement perform better than students who feel lost or overwhelmed.  Spend some time getting students to recognize what they already have mastered and emphasize its importance.  Encouragement goes a long way.  Remember the Pygmalion phenomenon?  Good teachers influence student performance.

    For Students

    Motivate Your Learning after Spring Break

    1. Assess your learning to this point in the semester.

    Taking time to examine your performance on finished tests, quizzes, papers and projects can help you understand how to adjust your study for better performance.  Several websites offer post-test surveys that can help students determine what went wrong and how to adjust study skills. http://www.dso.iastate.edu/asc/supplemental/SIShowcasePostTestAnalysis.pdf

    2. Practice weekly calendar reviews and updates

    On Sunday night review your syllabi and calendar to be mindful of deadlines and approaching exams or papers.

    3. Prioritize assignments.

    If you know that a major project is coming due, plan your time effectively.  Divide large assignments into manageable parts and hold yourself to accomplishing each part in a timely way.  Accomplishing manageable goals increases your self-confidence.

    4. Develop alternative study places.

    As the weather warms, try to find a spot outdoors where you enjoy working that is free from distractions where you can study.  Diffuse sunlight by a window can increase your energy.

    5. Hook up with fellow students to study.

    Working with your classmates can get you back on track to refocus on what is important and to hold you accountable in the last part of the semester.