A college professor we know tells us, “Sometimes I think that nothing I can do will generate the slightest amount of enthusiasm from my lecture classes . . . If I stood on the lab table in the front of the room, lit the Bunsen Burner and waved it around over my head, I don’t think even that would do the trick.”

Many instructors have had similar thoughts. And there is no doubt that lots of advice has been written for teachers who want to do a better job of motivating their students.  Some of the advice offers complicated solutions to boosting motivation, like allowing students to provide feedback electronically while classes are in progress. Other advice is more basic, like, “vary the tone of your voice” and, “be energetic.”

So we were pleased when we recently found “Twenty Tips on Motivating Students,” an advisory on the University of Nebraska’s Office of Graduate Studies page. The 20 tips that Nebraska offers are a good mix of tips of all kinds – common-sense, technological, motivational, and more.

Let’s take a few minutes to think about them:

  1. Learn your students’ names early and use them as often as possible.
  2. Arrange your room in a u-shape to help students interact.
  3. Be active and move around the room as you teach.
  4. Be available before class starts, during breaks, and afterwards.
  5. Be consistent in the way you treat all students.
  6. Encourage students to share comments, even if they are incorrect. To learn what your students don’t understand, you need to ask them.
  7. Involve your students in your teaching by asking for feedback.
  8. Learn your student’s strengths and limitations as learners. Reward strengths and strengthen weaknesses.
  9. Maintain eye contact and nod your head to show that you are listening.
  10. Make sure your exams are current and valid.
  11. Mix up your use of lectures, demonstrations, discussions, case studies, and breakout groups.
  12. Plan class activities in 15-20 minute cycles, because students have difficulty maintaining attention after a longer period of time.
  13. Plan every class, never try to wing it.
  14. Provide opportunities for students to speak to the entire class.
  15. Return assignments and tests to students as soon as reasonably possible, with constructive feedback.
  16. Review objectives and be sure students know what they are expected to learn, do, and know.
  17. Smile and be expressive.
  18. Tell your students how the content you are teaching relates to them and the world around them.
  19. Use many examples.
  20. Vary your pitch, volume and rate of speech.

To Learn More about College and Career Options

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