Pedagogy in Action > Library > First Day of Class > Motivate your Students

Motivate your Students

Being motivated to learn is absolutely essential to the learning process, so it's worth explicitly focusing on student motivation right from the start. Methods of increasing student motivation to learn include making explicit connections between course content and students' lives, challenging students with a problem-solving task (related to the course), and describing career opportunities in geoscience.

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Making explicit connections between the course material and students' lives

Butte mining district
Open-pit mine in Butte, MT.
  • Dave Mogk presents his students at Montana State University with an advertisement for mining from their local newspaper and uses it to engage his students in discussion:
    "I present students with an advertisement from our newspaper that proclaimed 'Life in a 125 ton mineral' deposit, with a picture of an American Dream Home, and a long list of raw materials and natural resources that went into the construction of the house. Final caption: 'Mining. We depend on it.' This forms the basis for an extended think-pair-share discussion." (Read more.)
  • Kathy Licht has her students at IUPUI brainstorm lists of local and global environmental issues:
    "In order to start students thinking about the course materials, to set a tone that the course will be one of discussion and active participation, and to work toward building community on our commuter campus, I ask students to do the following: (1) Introduce yourself to your two nearest neighbors, (2) Make a list of the top three local environmental problems, and (3) Make a list of the top three global environmental problems. After the students discuss these topics in small groups for about 5 minutes, we make a list on the board of volunteered student responses and discuss how they fit into the topics we'll cover in Environmental Geology." (Read more.)

Challenging students with a problem-solving task

  • Mark Noll presents his students at SUNY College - Brockport with a scenario about buying a house and later finding out that it is built on an abandoned waste site:
    "I present the students with a scenario about buying a house then getting a letter from the department of environmental conservation about the abandoned waste site on which their house is built. The students and I engage in some role-playing on who and what to believe. Then I ask them to decide what they need to know to make a decision for themselves."

Highlighting career opportunities in geoscience

  • Bill Dunne has his students at the University of Tennessee, individually and then in small groups, build a list of what geologists do:
    "I ask the students to individually and then in small groups build a list of what geologists do. The class then builds a master list with me as the list constructor. This is a 'low-risk' topic where virtually any student answer is correct, so that creates a positive. Plus, it establishes from the very first day that we will have in-class activities and that the outcomes of that activity will guide content later in the class. So, they expect it in future classes." (Read more.)
  • Pranoti Asher, at Georgia Southern University, describes career opportunities and salaries in geoscience:
    "I ask students about their majors. Most of them have not yet declared a major. It gives me an opportunity to pitch the Geology major and GIS minor. I talk about opportunites in the field and salaries of GIS technicians. Many sit up and take notice. I also bring information about the GIS minor to my class and many students pick up this information on their way out of class." (Read more.)

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