Motivating students to learn and succeed in the 21st century

EducationWorld January 2022 | Magazine Spotlight Feature
Saurabh Modi– Saurabh Modi, Founder-Chairman, Neerja Modi School, Jaipur

As educators, we want children in our classrooms to be happy, of course. But, how do we rationalise that their contentment truly matters when it comes to learning and absorbing the knowledge being imparted? According to a new study by HGSE lecturer Christina Hinton, the answer to my question is well-defined: It matters tremendously. 

As Hillary Clinton has rightly said, “It takes a village to raise a child”, we constantly go beyond the office or classrooms to engage every child in her/his development and progress. The friendly staff at the gate, a smiling bus driver or a compassionate lunchroom faculty member play an enormous role in how students feel about their presence in the school.

Plutarch said that “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited”, and although what motivates each one of us to accept what we fill our minds with to achieve our dreams is different for each one of us, the underlying reasons are quite alike. We can reasonably debate that extrinsic motivations like grades, standardised tests, and financial rewards are purely provisional enticements that cannot deliver a sustainable structure for quality learning and careers.

I also agree that student learning and performance especially in the current world of online learning will forever remain a challenge. How has the proliferation of online lessons altered the psyche of students or de-humanised the learning experience? 

Therefore, the pertinent question that surfaces is that as educators how do we motivate and engage our future world citizens to develop the willpower and determination to learn and succeed? 

Neerja Modi School

Alumni engagement is vital

At NMS, we understand how building significant association with students and alumni is central to the strategic growth and advancement of higher education programmes. Though alumni typically move away from campus to pursue a career, we ensure, through various programmes, that they stay in touch and build a global professional network. Presently, NMS students greatly benefit from mentorship from engaged alumni. 

Nothing inspires former students to stay plugged in with their alma mater and students like the prospect to build carmaraderie with other alumni. We have all grappled with a dearth of social interaction during the pandemic, and virtual community-building events are the perfect therapy for this situation.

As we continue to discover new digital solutions to advance support to students who are learning remotely, as business leaders and educators, we have an opportunity to employ technology to shape engaging experiences and maintain a student-institution relationship across the student lifecycle and beyond graduation.

Bringing peer mentoring into the larger picture

Mentoring programmes have time and again established themselves as an important part of students’ lives. The role of a mentor is unparalleled and mentored students possess better attitudes towards their schools and teachers, build strong interpersonal skills for life, and most importantly have better attendance. This is precisely why, at NMS, we prioritise the need for peer mentoring systems. 

We all struggle with insecurities and when we open our hearts to a friend, we get a confidant, a guiding force, and a solid support system who is someone besides a parent or a teacher. This is a value a peer mentor brings into our lives. 

As educators, we can help connect this space by forming systems in our schools with peer-mentoring programs. Peer mentoring also promotes non-academic competencies such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. 

A peer-mentoring programme enables opportunities for children to communicate their emotional state, opinions, and apprehensions with their fellow peers—it is a modest and tactical way to educate children on how to build relationships with their mentors, teachers, parents, and the world in general. 

The key to successful children and global citizens begins with the positive step of creating a foundation of security and confidence. Utilising peer mentors can bridge the gap parents and teachers may not always fill. As an educator, I have seen how important my students are to have mentors. 

Keep communication channels open 

Teachers are the catalysts for fostering happiness and hope amongst students. During a crisis like the current pandemic, strengthening communication, transparency, and conviction is key to proper development amongst students. Communication can help in interpreting and confronting uncertainties, misconceptions; establishing community participation in addressing challenges. A two-way communication always ensures that there is space to listen to concerns and feedback. Creating a culture of open communication takes work and is easily overlooked when things are going on as usual. But it is well worth the effort that will drive students to new levels of productivity and happiness.

Concluding thoughts…

All students would possess strong inherent motivational capabilities in a perfect world. They would be completely engrossed during all their lessons, eagerly finishing tasks. But, in reality, the circumstances are discrete. Therefore, we need to try and strike a balance between fostering motivation and using rewards to help our students participate in the learning process. If we can accomplish this, everyone engaged will feel the ripples – teachers, parents, and most prominently the students.

Also read: Leaders who can revive Indian education – Saurabh Modi

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