As I began this year, I considered how to motivate students to succeed in Science. I realized many who think they “cannot do science” instead just do not complete their work. I, therefore, decided to not give a grade to work turned in “incomplete” but require these students to come to my classroom during our school’s “flex” time. We run flex time on Tuesdays - Fridays. This is 30 minutes where students who have either an “F” or “Incomplete” grade in any class are required to work with that teacher at that time. Those who have passing grades are allowed to select a “fun” activity. Fun activities include sporting contests, “Got Talent” contests, Wii activities, etc.

I’ve had many students who needed extra time and self-selected to come in and work with me during our “Flex” time. I also required some students to come by recording their score as “Incomplete” due to work that was not finished when it was turned in. At this point, I am seeing a huge excitement from all students - both grades 7 and 9. They know they can succeed in Science and have vocalized it to me. I posted this “END FAILING GRADES” sign in my classroom. Several students commented to me privately that they want to accept this challenge - making sure they pass my class and all their other courses. I think it would be awesome if they become motivated to pass every class.

When I left work today, at the end of our third week of school, I only have four students, out of a total of 234 students, who have failing grades. I spoke personally with each student today and each promised to complete and turn in the missing work on Tuesday when he/she returns to school.

To help students encourage one another to pass, I designed yet another poster. The thought behind this came from the “safety posters” seen in many work areas. Instead of the number of days without a reportable accident, I’ve modified the wording. I consider my goal important enough to REPRINT this poster daily if needed to help motivate students.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this process to help students succeed in class.

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Comment by Jacek Polubiec on September 4, 2009 at 5:37pm
I agree with Douglass Reeves that consequence for not completing work should be more work. This way, students know that there are not shortcuts and if they are tempted to submit incomplete work they will get it right back and they will keep getting it back until they realize that they might as well just do it right. I think he calls it giving students multiple ways to improve.
I had a pavlovian reaction to the word "motivation" which you used in your opening sentence. I think we often overlook the natural, effective and free intrinsic motivators which we all have. I think instead of starting with the content to be taught it might be better to find out what students would do with passion and no outside stimulus or payback and tap into it. I discuss it in my blog. Perhaps you can try using a questionnaire similar to the one I used to assess what would make your students do the work.

Comment by Jacek Polubiec on September 4, 2009 at 5:39pm
Comment by Glen Westbroek on September 4, 2009 at 5:51pm
thanks for the link to your blog and suggestion to reconsider the use of "motivation" in the opening sentence. It appears we are on the same line of thinking - these students get to continue doing the work until it is complete and done correctly. Thanks for your comments.
Comment by Glen Westbroek on September 4, 2009 at 5:55pm

I could not view your survey questions nor results, as I do not have "access rights" that google document.


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