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Managing learner participation in the classroom

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Irrespective of the depth of knowledge of the subject matter and teaching techniques known by an educator, it is very paramount for educators to know how to get learners actively involved in learning. It is very crucial to understand how to manage the entire classroom so as to get learners engaged in the task marked for them such that they are excited to be at school, eager to learn, and focused on lessons. I will be examining this task under the following aspects:

General Strategies
Motivation Theory
Some of the common theories are Reinforcement, Needs, Cognitive and Social learning theories. There is a need to recognize students’ needs for self-determination and autonomy, and provide opportunities for choice and control. Understanding that students may be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to learn. While it may be ideal to have a room full of intrinsically motivated students, it is understandable that students are also driven by the desire for grades, approval and other rewards. Students may often have multiple goals for the same course. Students usually direct their behaviour toward activities that they value and in which they have some expectancy of success. Capitalize on students’ existing needs

Students will be motivated to learn when the course is structured in a way that students learn best when incentives for learning in a classroom satisfy their own motives for enrolling in the course. Some of the needs students may bring to the classroom are the need to learn something in order to complete a particular task or activity, the need to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs is rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than do grades. I will design assignments, in-class activities, and discussion questions to address these kinds of needs. Make students active participants in learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, and solving. Passivity dampens students’ motivation and curiosity. I will pose questions. Encourage students to suggest approaches to a problem or to guess the results of an experiment. As Confucius said, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own” (quoted in Kegan & Lahey, 2000, p. 10). Ask students to analyze what makes their classes more or less “motivating.” One way to measure what motivates students is to ask them. Survey what type of lecture has been the most motivating and what type of class has been the least. Appeal to students’ interests and curiosity. To build intrinsic motivation, we must build a climate of understanding and trust. Incorporating Instructional Behaviours that Motivate Students Hold high but realistic expectations for your students.*

Program students for success. While exams and assignments should still be challenging, they should also offer students a reasonable chance for success. Help students set achievable goals for themselves.

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Encouraging students to focus on their continued improvement, not just on their grade on any one test or assignment. Help students evaluate their progress by encouraging them to critique their own work, analyze their strengths, and work on their weaknesses. For example, consider asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with one or two assignments. Tell students what they need to do to succeed in your course. I will not let students struggle to figure out what is expected of them. I will reassure students that they can do well in my course, and tell them exactly what thy must do to succeed. Will say something to the effect that “If you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam. People who have trouble with these examples can ask me for extra help.” Or instead of saying “You’re way behind,” tell the student, “Here is one way you could go about learning the material. How can I help you?” Strengthen students’ self-motivation.

Avoid messages that reinforce the power of an instructor or that emphasize extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying “I require,” “you must,” or “you should,” I would rather stress “I think you will find…,” or “I will be interested in your reaction.” Avoid creating intense competition among students.

Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work cooperatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of students’ performance and from comments or activities that pit students against one another. Be enthusiastic about your subject.

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. If you become bored or apathetic, students will too. Typically, an instructor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content and genuine pleasure in teaching. If I am uninterested in the material, I think back to what attracted me to the field and bring those aspects of the subject matter to life for the students. Structuring the Course to Motivate Students

Work from students’ interests.
An instructor should be sure not the focus on what they want to teach or on what they are required to teach, but concentrate more on teaching what the students might find interesting. What do the students find intrinsically motivating? What are their wants or needs? By avoiding work in which students will be criticized or punished, the students’ intrinsic motivation will be ignited. When possible, let students have some say in choosing what will be studied. Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let students decide between two locations for the field trip, or have them select which topics to explore in greater depth. If possible, include optional or alternative units in the course. Get to know your students.

Whenever possible, share something about yourself with your students. Look for opportunities to let them know who you are and what you stand for. Vary your teaching methods.
Instructors who teach in a variety of ways are able to meet the diverse learning of all of their students. Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and their motivation. Break the routine by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods in your course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers, or small group work. De-emphasizing Grades

Emphasize mastery and learning rather than grades
Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school math teachers. One teacher graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second teacher told students to spend a fixed amount of time on their homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions to class about problems they could not complete. This teacher graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo their assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of their final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, this second teacher was more successful in motivating students to turn in their homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of their abilities. In the second class, students were not risking their self-worth each time they did their homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from. Researchers recommend de-emphasizing grading by eliminating systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (for example, lowering grades for missed classes). Instead, assign ungraded written-work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure their progress. Design tests that encourage the kind of learning you want students to achieve. Many students will learn whatever is necessary to get the grades they desire. If you base your tests on memorizing details, students will focus on memorizing facts. If your tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. Avoid using grades as threats.

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but other students resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work, and other counterproductive behaviour. Motivating Students by Responding to Their Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible.
Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mention the names of contributors. Reward success.

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence, and self-esteem. Recognize sincere efforts even if the product is less than stellar. If a student’s performance is weak, let the student know that you believe he or she can improve and succeed over time. Give students specific information about how their work will be graded. * Give rubrics with specific information about how their work will be graded. Let them know what should be included in work of the highest quality. If possible, give examples on the good work of other students from past years. If students know what is expected of their work and have in mind what high quality work looks like, they will be more motivated to try their best. Be specific when giving negative feedback.

Negative feedback is very powerful and can lead to a negative class atmosphere. Whenever you identify a student’s weakness, make it clear that your comments relate to a particular task or performance, not to the student as a person. Don’t make negative comments nebulous. Try to cushion negative comments with a compliment about the aspects of the task in which the student succeeded. Avoid demeaning comments.

Many students in your class may be anxious about their performance and abilities. Be sensitive to how you phrase your comments and avoid offhand remarks that might prick their feelings of inadequacy. Avoid giving in to students’ pleas for “the answer” to homework problems. When you simply give struggling students the solution, you rob them of the chance to think for themselves. Use a more productive approach (adapted from Fiore, 1985). Ask the students for one possible approach to the problem.

Gently brush aside students’ anxiety about not getting the answer by refocusing their attention on the problem at hand. Ask the students to build on what they do know about the problem. Resist answering the question “Is this right?” Suggest to the students a way to check the answer for themselves. Praise the students for small, independent steps.

If you follow these steps, your students will learn that it is all right not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at their own pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a sense of achievement and confidence that will increase their motivation to learn. Motivating Students to Do the Reading

Assign the reading at least two sessions before it will be discussed. Give students ample time to prepare and try to pique their curiosity about the reading: “This article is one of my favorites, and I’ll be interested to see
what you think about it.” Assign study questions.

Hand out study questions that alert students to the key points of the reading assignment. To provide extra incentive for students, tell them you will base exam questions on the study questions. Ask nonthreatening questions about reading.

Initially pose general questions that do not create tension or feelings of resistance: “Can you give me one or two items from the chapter that seem important?” “What section of the reading do you think we should review?” “What item in the reading surprised you?” “What topics in the chapter can you apply to your own experience?” Prepare an exam question on undiscussed readings.

If students have not done the reading, tell them that there will be at least one question taken directly from what they were to have read. The next time the reading is discussed, remind about what happened last time and that if they come to class prepared, there won’t be any surprises on the exam.


(UNISA 1997: 48) Group work ensures that individual members of are actively involved because: It enables the educator to manage large classes more effectively It encourages cooperation
Socializing skills are developed. Learners learn to share and to respect one another and to work together. Self-study skills are practised
Self-confidence is promoted
Communication skills are developed
It is learner-centred. Learners are more involved.
Groups with members of similar ability can work together at their own pace Learners learn self-control and self-discipline
Learners learn to manage their time
Competition is more fair
The Educator can observe the class and individuals more thoroughly The educator can attend to an individual while others are busy Group work also
brings out individual innate qualities helping them to be more responsive, aware of their strengths and develop their leadership ability.


In the classroom, some of the duties of the educators to ensure a positive intercultural interaction among learners include: Identify and eradicate practises, procedures and uses that discriminate against ethnic minorities. Watch for the labelling of learners from other cultures

Expect and communicate the expectation of high academic results from all learners, irrespective of culture, race, gender or religion. Ensure that learning experiences relate to the learners’ own cultural experience Promote closer interaction among home and school

Be sensitive to the fact that cognitive learning styles are culturally dependent Use of a variety of teaching styles, methods, strategies and techniques Create the correct ethos and atmosphere in the class by being cooperative and supportive rather than being competitive and unsupportive. Close self-analysis and introspection about your feelings on racism is necessary before you are able to be objective and non-judgemental about other cultures. etc.


According to Howard Gardner, (Pettigrew and Ackhurst 1999; 183) and Mandel (2003: 47) there are eight forms of intelligence; i. Linguistic Intelligence
ii. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
iii. Spatial-visual Intelligence
iv. Bodily Kinaesthetic Intelligence
v. Musical Intelligence
vi. Interpersonal Intelligence
vii. Intrapersonal Intelligence
viii. Naturalist Intelligence
Each intelligence must be specifically catered for using its corresponding measures to address them. These will go a long way in ensuring learners participate acticely when they know that their peculiarity is been given attention and not just that they have a platform for expression form the educator. An Educator is to incorporate these multiple intelligences into learning activities by Grouping learners of similar intelligences together,

Ensuring the all the multiple intelligences are present in each group.


There are many ways of looking at learning styles. Here are some of the classification systems that researchers have developed. The Teaching methods and activities that suit different learning styles The Four Modalities

Use many visuals in the classroom. For example, wall displays posters, realia, flash cards, graphic organizers etc. Auditory
Use audio tapes and videos, storytelling, songs, jazz chants, memorization and drills Allow learners to work in pairs and small groups regularly.
Use physical activities, competitions, board games, role plays etc. Intersperse activities which require students to sit quietly with activities that allow them to move around and be active Tactile

Use board and card games, demonstrations, projects, role plays etc. Use while-listening and reading activities. For example, ask students to fill in a table while listening to a talk, or to label a diagram while reading

Field-independent vs. field-dependent
Let students work on some activities on their own
Let students work on some activities in pairs and small groups Left-brain vs.
right-brain dominated
Left-brain dominated
Give verbal instructions and explanations
Set some closed tasks to which students can discover the “right” answer

Right-brained dominated
Write instructions as well as giving them verbally
Demonstrate what you would like students to do
Give students clear guidelines, a structure, for tasks
Set some open-ended tasks for which there is no “right” answer Use realia and other things that students can manipulate while learning Sometimes allow students to respond by drawing
McCarthy’s four learning styles
Innovative learners
Use cooperative learning activities and activities in which students must make value judgements Ask students to discuss their opinions and beliefs
Analytic learners
Teach students the facts
Common sense learners
Use problem-solving activities
Dynamic learners
Ask students about their feelings
Use a variety of challenging activities


In order that learner participation is optimally and effectively managed, the knowledge and mastery of all these factors outlined need to be adopted. Now, the level of success achieved is contingent on level of effectiveness, understanding, and depth with which ones carries out these factors. Ultimately, the classroom is well managed, knowledge is impacted on the learners and they look forward to learning sessions with the educator because they are better off what they were.

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