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Keeping students motivated during the countdown to Christmas

December 1, 2016

Come December 1st, the tinsel begins to make its way out of storage, the days get warmer and longer and we start to count down the days to the Christmas/New Years Break. In most cases, we’ve put in the hard yards throughout the year; submitted countless projects, attended multiple meetings, stared at a computer screen too many times to count. By December we’re burnt out and craving a few days of much-deserved relaxation. The precious time-off is so close…but there’s still a few weeks blocking us from lazing on the beach. Motivation drains and suddenly staying focused for those last few tasks seems almost impossible!

If motivation is dwindling as you travel through December, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. There has been numerous research into the affect seasons have on motivation levels and the majority of findings indicated that motivation and productivity were at their lowest during December and January.

Maintaining motivation as the year draws to a close is especially significant for training organisations. Attention begins to shift towards the upcoming year. Hiring needs, scheduling decisions and last minute reporting begin to absorb the attention of owners and administrators. However, we should consider the students trying to finish their last pieces of assessment before training organisations shut up shop for the year. The lure of the summer holidays is just as strong for students as it is for us. And while student motivation is a major focus point for trainers and training organisations all year round- as the year draws to a close it is imperative to ensure completion rates don’t drop and students maintain their focus.

David Torrence, a professor in training and development says that a key way to a achieve this is to empathise positive reinforcement, especially as the year draws to a close.

“If you want students to actively participate in the training process, you need to reward them for learning; smiles, positive body language and words of encouragement will make students feel good about learning.

This is very important as deadlines loom and stress levels rise. You want to encourage their progress and reassure them they’re doing well in order to motivate them to finish their training and see it as a worthwhile process.” Torrence says.

Examples of this are when trainers respond to student’s questions or inputs by saying “Very Good” or “Correct”. Such reinforcement increases students self-esteem and encourages them to participate. Praise creates an “I’m OK; you’re OK” atmosphere which becomes increasingly valuable to students as they submit end of year assessments.

Even when trainees give incorrect answers, Torrence says it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of their responses. Responding to an incorrect answer with “You’re on the right track but there are a few things you could expand on further” gives students the confirmation that they’re close to achieving their goal and encourages them to keep trying.

Similarly, Torrence believes threats and punishments need to be eliminated from the training environment. This tip is relevant all year round, as a stressful atmosphere fraught with threats and punishment isn’t likely to elicit student’s openness, participation and positive feelings.

At the end of the year when students are submitting their final tasks, there’s often a focus on fear whether intentional or unintentional. With the end of the year often comes the end of a unit or course and with this, there comes a focus on passing or failing the said unit or course. Students can often become fearful of failing. This can be a motivating factor for some, but can also be detrimental to others. Fear can actually become so overpowering that students feel it easier to quit.

Consequently, Torrence says to avoid using end-of-year assessment as the ‘defining focus' for a unit or course.

Instead he says to emphasise each training activity as equally contributing to overall learning outcomes. This will reduce the pressure of a final assessment and encourage student attendance and focus during each session.

Meanwhile, Growth Engineering -a leading eLearning platform- encourage trainers to change up their learning activities as the year progresses.

“Many students will learn in different ways and their concentration and passion for a subject will start to diminish if the content appears stale. To ensure students are continually engaged in what you’re teaching, make sure to change up lesson plans and the way information is presented.

This is especially important towards the end of the year when students have been studying a particular topic for a longer period of time” Growth Engineering states.

On their website, Growth Engineering suggests incorporating tools such as videos, diagrams, photos, role-plays and gamification. Gamification which is a relatively new learning tool involves applying game-like traits and mechanics such as score boards, badges and levels to non-game activities.

“These activities are highly interactive and cater to all different learning styles (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic), which increase the likelihood of engagement and learning amongst the students.

Offering these different learning formats will also ensure students don’t get easily bored and retain motivation for the entire year” Growth Engineering promises.

Keeping students motivated is a challenging process, especially as the Christmas break draws near. Even keeping yourself motivated in the last few weeks before a holiday is challenging! However, incorporating some of the above suggestions can help retain student’s interest and motivate them to finish their course on a positive note.

For further information on this topic visit Growth Engineering’s website.

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