Agony Aunt

September 3, 1999

Q: I have quite a high proportion of students repeating one of my courses this year and would welcome some advice on keeping them motivated.

* Simon Myerson, Motivational psychologist Insititute of Team and Group Psychology.

The answer lies in "edutainment" - a mixture of education and entertainment. Or, as Saatchi and Saatchi put it, "making a single-minded proposition come alive in a compelling way".

In order to keep the students motivated you must re-teach them without their knowing. The moment a workload feels like drudgery or the quantity of learning seems threatening, people will flee from it. Keep things short, sharp and sweet. It may help to regard your lecture as a piece of theatre but do not try hard to be an actor. Distil the information into a compelling, easy-to remember format, so that students can retain the knowledge. It may sound like an awful lot of work but it will pay off in the end.

* Sally Brown: Director of membership services Institute of Learning and Teaching.

Boredom is hazardous to learning so

students and teachers should both

think about experimenting with different learning styles to combat this. Students should be encouraged to put their notes

onto an audio tape and lecturers should think about making use of different types

of visual aids, such as diagrams and video tapes. By reframing your current material - use all your personality and ingenuity to

do this - you will not let the boredom

factor creep in.

* Phil Race: Course director, certificate of teaching in higher education, Durham University.

Help your students revise their exam and study techniques. Try holding a few post-mortem sessions to confront what went wrong and show them how they should have answered.

Peer assessment sessions are also effective ways of keeping the students interested. Under simulated exam conditions, set the class a past exam paper and then let them mark each others' scripts using a marking scheme. This will let the students see what counts and how others in the class would answer. It also builds up a dialogue in the classroom.

Keep the pressure up but do not make the students feel inadequate by going through things too quickly. It is their techniques that need to be focused so make sure that everything is covered in a systematic way.

* Sue Whiten: Anatomy lecturer and THES science teacher of the year, St Andrews University.

I always find that repeating students come back well motivated and grateful for a second chance. But when they find that the material coming at them is the same as they have covered the previous year, they quickly lose interest. In those first few motivated weeks it is a good idea to ask them to prepare a study plan to present formally to their adviser of studies and stick to.

It might be an idea to set them extra work with a different focus, although some people feel that repeating students should not be given any additional work. Handing out extra assignments in a class with a high proportion of repeating students can be very time consuming for teachers, however.

Because these students will be familiar with the course they tend to acquire a status in the class. Make use of the fact that these students have a wider view of the subject area and ask them if they would like to assist other students with their learning. I have only done this informally in practical classes, but it seems to work very well. There really is no better way of learning than to teach.

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