Sustaining academic interest in students

Sustaining academic interest in students

This is an age in which teachers have begun to realise that he or she is a helping hand to the needy who fumble for want of orientation, interest and motivation. the role of a teacher is a fast changing and has to adapt to the needs of the students.

What makes the teachers often worried is the lack of interest and motivation among the majority of students as they involve in the process of learning not wholeheartedly, but only mechanically. But we see the same students spend hours together in front of computers without getting tired, even forgetting hunger. We wonder why our students get easily tired when it comes to text books while they comfortably spend long hours engrossed in other activities.

Point in focus

Now the question is – What can be done to make education and the general teaching process more attractive, interesting and motivating? The only solution is to transform them all into internally motivated individuals and this can be done by inculcating a feeling in their minds that education is not something separated from life; on the other hand, it is all about life itself.

In the present condition we find that our children fail to correlate the concepts they learn from the text books to real life situations.  Further, they do not find satisfactory answers for many of the questions that life poses before them.

All these years we believed, and  continue to believe that the introduction of a few application level questions in the examination would serve this purpose, but they did not. It is high time that we go beyond this bare minimum to connect education and life in an interesting manner so that we will no longer feel disappointed in our classrooms by hollow, distracted looks on the part of our students.

The theory of operant conditioning propounded by B F Skinner emphasises the importance of factors which can motivate the students from outside, either in the form of a reward or punishment. Most of the time, it remains the duty of the teachers to elicit and maintain the attention of the students, and we all do it. But it has its own limitations and the highly heterogeneous nature of the group makes it further difficult.

For example when a child sings the nursery rhyme Old MacDonald’s farm, he enjoys it and simultaneously (and unknowingly) he picks up basic facts related to farming and agriculture. But this method is suitable for primary or preschool level and may not cater for the needs of higher levels effectively. However the experiential way of learning suggested by modern educationists actually has its roots in this play way method.
We can sustain the interest of our students if we can give them a holistic view of all those things they learn. In this case, information which characteristically appears dull will suddenly get illuminated with a brighter shade of understanding since information is then liberated from the water tight compartments of distinct subjects.

First hand involvement

This involvement from the part of the students will result in sustained interest. When concepts are imposed on students, they may not be motivated to learn. On the other hand, if we can encourage the students to master the same concepts out of their own interest, through self designed strategies, exploring a plethora of resources, learning will be more effective, stress-free and interesting.

This will in turn get reflected in their academic performance, bestowing them with better understanding and confidence. Here, the major challenge will be to design effective learning practices which can elicit desired learning outcomes. When a team of like-minded teachers collectively plan, keeping in view of the concepts to be covered, fruitful strategies will evolve.

The performance of a student in an examination is mostly a function of his or her intellectual capacity. But learning, the basis of all such performances is purely a function of one’s heart. Learning tends to be zero where interest is less. A teacher with passion for profession, awareness about the current trends and a sense of humour can easily make classes lively by occasionally hinting the topics of students’ interest.

The lively and jovial atmosphere in the class and the students’ positive attitude towards the teacher and thereby towards his or her subject may to some extent help in generating a little interest in the minds of the students, but this very little will not be sufficient to motivate the children to excel.

We all have played the game of ‘treasure hunt’ many a time. Teachers should understand that each child sitting in front of him or her is involved in this game, searching the treasure hidden within him; some play instinctively while the majority loses the way quite easily.

It is the responsibility of each teacher to help him involve in the search and inspire him to continue the search by assuring an all time, unconditional support characteristic of a true facilitator.

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