Marzano Design Question 5: Get Students Motivated by Upending Their Expectations, Part 1

In teaching, as in love, a little mystery goes a long way.

The biggest issue I hear from classroom teachers is, “How do I motivate my students?” It’s one thing to know your subject area and understand pedagogy. But it’s another to put it all together and get students eager to learn. In the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model, Design Question 5, Engaging Students is all about the engagement or reengagement of students. Today, I’d like to highlight what Marzano, in Bernard Weiner (1967) explained, humans have a desire to navigate the difference between what they observe and what they think should be. Our brains are constantly comparing what we see with our mental models of the world as we know it.

If what we see matches our prediction, we move on. But if it doesn’t, we focus in on it, and try to rationalize it.

When teaching, we should look for ways to present information that challenge our students’ mental models. You can present students with incomplete information, then challenge them to complete it, playing on their natural desire have the whole picture. This is exactly what inductive reasoningdoes, yet we don’t use it very often!

The Importance of Inductive Reasoning
In our instruction we usually use deductive reasoning; moving from general to specific. We teach concepts or principles and ask students to cite examples. Discussing healthy eating in a health class, we might talk about low-carb or low-fat diets. Students woulddeducewhat foods to eat or avoid for each diet.

We don’t use inductive reasoning often enough; moving from specific to general. Instead of teaching concepts or principles, try teaching specific parts, then ask students to draw their own conclusions about an overarching concept or principle. When discussing healthy eating, for example, rather than teaching different diets, we might present students with research studies on the effects of eating various food types, then ask them to draw their own conclusions. Afterwards, they can compare their results with the diets. This inductive method plays on a natural curiosity to complete the picture.

Concept Attainment
You can also take advantage of natural curiosity through concept attainment. Marzano calls concept attainment a macrostrategy in The Art and Science of Teaching. Concept attainment is based on the research of Jerome Bruner (1973); it’s an inductive approach to teaching. Concept attainment leads students to a concept or principle by sharing with them attributes and non-attributes. By comparing and contrasting the attributes and non-attributes, students come up with the concept or principle. A student’s desire to complete the picture from the incomplete information serves as a motivator to stay engaged!

We’ll be diving deep into ways to keep students engaged at this summer’s International Marzano Conference. Register now to ensure your seat!

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