Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Engaging Today's Students in Active Learning (Part 1)

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...
Main health effects of sleep deprivation. Model: Mikael Häggström (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Candace Mondello

Teachers and administrators struggle to apply new techniques and up-to-date processes to address the motivational challenges that blocked students from engaging in the learning process.

Active learning, a term used frequently in current teaching circles, emphasized that learning requires students to be more involved rather than passive.

Regardless of the attempts, the onus remains on teachers to generate enough enthusiasm in a subject to keep 20 to 30 students entertained for 6 hours a day.

Explanations for a variety of contributing factors to student apathy include: individual learning styles not being addressed adequately, students' lack of home-based support rendering students unfocused, students lacking a sense of belonging, boring curriculum dulling the senses, lack of flexibility stilting creativity and individualism, and a basic distrust between teacher and student destroying the very fabric of their relationship.

Who is ultimately responsible for student motivation - the student or the teacher? Or more importantly, what contributes to the lack of motivation?

Barriers to Motivation

Myriad barriers exist that deter students from truly participating in an academic quest for knowledge. Part 1 of this article series will consider specifically the effects of the following: home life, sleep, identification issues, and learning styles.

Home life

Centuries ago family life consisted of hard work, extended families, personal survival, and little else. Couples married and raised a family; the male head-of-household earned the family income while the female cared for the children and home. These family structures rarely experienced divorce.

In current society, 50 percent of students in a given classroom are children of divorce. Statistics show that marriages are dissolving and single-parent households are increasing at a rate of approximately 10 percent per year.

Realistically, these home-based relationships either contribute support or act as a distracter to students' learning processes. Family members cannot share living space and remain a neutral factor.

Family households maintained by single parents make up 17.3 million homes; 12.9 million are female run, and 4.4 million are male run. Female run families (no husband present) increased in both number and proportion in the last decade.

Children who witness inter-parental conflict demonstrate even greater emotional and behavioral issues than students of divorce; suggesting that divorce offers protection and closure and is, therefore, emotionally easier on children than continued subjection to domestic violence or familial turmoil.

It is also noted that students who experience marital disruption have more difficulty performing academically than students with intact families.

Other research suggests that student performance might not be dictated by parental disruption as much as by parental behavior during such disruptions (in other words, not the divorce, but the inappropriate behavior of the adults causes increased issues with adjustment). Teachers are forced to cope with the aftermath of these situations and attempt to reintegrate the children into the mainstream of learning.

Conversely, some students are blessed with wholly functional families and are equipped to produce their best work. These students, although dwindling in numbers (56 percent of U.S. population) have parents who attend school functions, provide rides to various extra-curricular activities, financially support education efforts, and even provide guidance and coaching through the homework process.


How it translates into the classroom: Most high school students in this generation don't maintain a pattern of restful sleep - many only sleep a few hours per night (staying up texting, Facebooking, Tweeting each other). Most students are exhausted during class and unable to concentrate; in fact, 20 percent of high school students report falling asleep in class.

This age group requires nine hours of sleep each night to avoid behaviors associated with sleep deprivation. These symptoms consist of decreased ability to process information and increased memory deficits; increased irritability, anxiety, and depression leading to short tempers and anger issues in school; and decreased ability to be creative or to comprehend complex assignments.

On average, teenagers tend to feel wider awake in the evening and experience greater difficulty falling asleep (most after midnight) and, therefore, greater difficulty rising in the morning. Additional sleep on the weekends does not offset this phenomenon. Unfortunately, this leaves teachers with drowsy, irritable, non-concentrating students who are not interested in learning.

Have more questions about helping your child get the BEST education possible? If your child struggles in school - this blog is your resource for finding the answers and getting results. Candee has been an educator in the public system for a decade. She LOVES helping parents connect with their child's education. Go to her website Dyslexia Testing Online and talk with her!!

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