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Dear Tom - Motivating students determined to fail

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by partan, Apr 19, 2012.

  1. partan

    partan New commenter

    Dear Tom,
    I work in FE and have a group of students who are resitting their GCSE English with the aim of gaining C grades. They have politely informed me that they have nothing against me personally, but they intend to put in minimal effort for the course and fail. As this is the aim, they behave appallingly and mess about throughout lessons.
    I've been battling since September, explaining necessity of GCSE for uni, employment etc but to no avail. They've been hauled in front of management, shouted at and threatened them but still no improvement.
    The sad thing is, I would really like them to succeed. What can I do?

     
  2. partan

    partan New commenter

    Dear Tom,
    I work in FE and have a group of students who are resitting their GCSE English with the aim of gaining C grades. They have politely informed me that they have nothing against me personally, but they intend to put in minimal effort for the course and fail. As this is the aim, they behave appallingly and mess about throughout lessons.
    I've been battling since September, explaining necessity of GCSE for uni, employment etc but to no avail. They've been hauled in front of management, shouted at and threatened them but still no improvement.
    The sad thing is, I would really like them to succeed. What can I do?

     
  3. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    The definition of a thankless task. If it's FE, surely this isn't a compulsory course for them, so why are they there? Because if it's optional, and they don;t want to do it, and they've essentially promised you they'll take a dive in the exams, why doesn't the college just show them the door. 'There it is,' they should say. 'That hole in the wall: it's a door. Don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out.' *waves cheerfully*
    Of course you want them to succeed; you;re a professional and a human being. But we cannot make people act in a way that they do not wish. Free will resides in the individual. This isn't an intellectual problem of them not understanding, this is an emotional decision; issues of motivation often are. If they;re not feeling the course, then you can't make them.
    Of course the other approach is a behaviourist one: motivate them extrinsically if you can't get them to want to learn- have a series of sanctions and rewards attached to undesired and desired behaviours, such as detentions and treats. The ultimate sanction is of course expulsion. Perhaps losing one of them would show the others you mean business. Of course, that assumes they want to be there in the first place for some reason, and they may well not, for reasons unknown to me.
    Do you have the ability to insist they stay after class and work? If there aren't any sincere sanctions applicable then they need to go. The threat that their ambivalence will actually lead to some form of consequence should have the motivating effect you seek. Otherwise, why should they give a hoot for your requests. Being shouted at barely registers with some as a behaviour modifier. Actions speak louder than...well, you know.
    Good luck
    Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.
     
  4. I'm not Tom but I have work to avoid so I thought I'd respond anyway.


    The thing is that although these students behave appallingly in your class, they have been respectful enough towards you as their teacher to articulate their strategy. There is method behind this messing around. They are - week after week - coming to your class. This fearless bunch - who could have more fun almost anywhere else, without the disruption of being hauled in front of the college hierarchy - choose to come to your class: why? Even if they are forced, they could slip away to the college canteen or library or smoking spot.


    Students have all sorts of strategies - developing over the years of compulsory schooling - to avoid the constant repetition of failure; it's normal. Most of us would rather be thought of as lazy than stupid.


    So - these learners are motivated (enough to turn up) and - lucky for you - they like you. Seems like a good starting point.


    Can you:


    ? in their terms remind them of the advantage of having a GCSE ? they might not be persuaded by Uni or employment, is there something else that appeals to them


    ? are they aware that they can actually pass the exam (can they pass the exam) - if they do this or that or whatever you ask of them


    ? experiment, explore, engage: tryout and try on ? are there other ways of teaching them that might trick them into cooperating


    How frustrating, but I think we have to take the long term view.


    The entrepreneurial college is obsessed with the bottom line: give me success rates; give me them now; and give me more, OR ELSE. We do our best to deliver.


    But take a step back and focus on the what matters ? no point in hitting the target if you miss the point. It may be that if these learners have made a strategic decision to fail, your role changes.


    Your role might be to provide them with a positive learning experience: one that is stimulating and engaging. To be a teacher who creates a sense that even if they just couldn't care less this time around, the work is interesting and matters. The point then is to create in them the long term sense that when they are ready, they can return and get their GCSE. (Assuming your anxieties are correct and they don;t pass).


    Too late for the college?s bottom line, but it might just be the right time for these learners.


    Good luck.



    http://azumahcarol.blogspot.co.uk/
    Dr Carol Azumah Dennis
     
  5. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    One thing that occurs to me about this scenario is, "is there a 'ringleader'" in this?"
    Is it possible there's a ringleader in the group who believes he or she will fail and is covering this up by persuading all the others what a great game it will be if everyone fails?
    (That sort of thing was relatively common in the days of "shame" being attached to poor literacy.)
     

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