Visit to a Motivated Classroom

By Murray Bourne, 30 Dec 2004

Visit to a Motivated Classroom is a US production by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. It is a 30 minute video with supplementary Viewer's Guide. The lesson is on pre-calculus mathematics - sine and cosine rules, to be specific.

The title caught my eye, since the lack of student motivation seems to be a large problem for educators everywhere.

The first part of the video shows students learning from a 'senior assistant' (a student visitor to the class) who is describing some algebraic procedure. Through this part I was fairly unsatisfied, since there was a lot of emphasis (by the teacher) on "passing the test" rather than on "the learning". Also, there was evidence of some students being not overly motivated (the guy with long blond hair who arrived late and was somewhat turned off).

However, things improved significantly when the students were put into groups to work on problems. It was fun-competitive (the groups had to reach 'touchdown' on a simple football field on the whiteboard). This segment was more motivating than anything else, since it was more learner-centred and socially interactive.

There is always the question - are the students we are watching motivated anyway - by socio-economic factors, or whatever? A check on Mount Vernon High School, were it was filmed, shows that it is above state average on the free lunch criterion. (Source). Motivation is multi-dimensional and while the teacher is central to this, support from home, the community and the system generally are also very important.

Back to the video - is it worth watching? I think so, since it is good to see a non-confrontational mathematics class and some good rapport building. But as you watch, think about how you could do things even better... (ISBN: 0-87120-836-9).

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