This unit, consisting of 4 lessons, is the first of a 3 part student leadership series. Students are primarily non-traditional college students with a wide variety of college readiness skills ranging from multiple high-risk factors to being sophisticated learners. Participation is voluntary with no credit or grade associated with completion. The unit is intended to be open-entry with 1 – 10 students entering and proceeding at their own pace over the course of a 15 week semester. Both the voluntary and open-entry aspects of this unit present pedagogical challenges.
Motivation generally created by earning credit and grades was absent due to the voluntary nature of the course, requiring alternate motivational strategy. The need was met by incorporating aspects from the motivational theories of flow and self-determination.
Consistent with flow theory, as described by Gutierrez (2014), I made a particular effort to state clear objectives with each lesson and ensure presentation of instruction, task, and deliverables are consistent between lessons and free of extraneous ‘noise’ so students can quickly identify the tasks and assignments for each lesson. With a heavy reliance on triggering intrinsic motivation, the unit begins with having the student identify things they are good at. This strategy meets Deci and Ryan’s self determination theory (SDT) component of competence. The unit concludes by giving students the autonomy to choose their own project.
Assessment for this unit is based on student self-reflection on the learning process as evidenced in journal entries and concept maps. Students are asked to interact with the content and then reflect on the learning process and their personal values in relation to the content. Journal entry prompts ask students to think critically about social issues as interpreted through the lens of their own values.
As an open entry opportunity, there will be no student cohort to interact with. Students are asked to converse with friends and family in this unit and will need to begin interviews with social service agencies in the next unit. Feedback at this point is instructor based and conversational in tone, provided in written form. Feedback can come at the end of each lesson, but I predict more opportunities for questions and feedback to arise during the unit. Because of the individualized and very personal nature of the feedback, I am counting on it to be relationship building, providing relatedness, the third leg of SDT.
The unit also draws on both cognitive and constructivist learning theory. Students are asked to participate directly in a guided self assessment and make meaning (cognitive theory) of the results by seeking the impressions of people that know them well. They are introduced to the topic of social change first by definition, then by real life example and then once competence is built, by analyzing current services and creating plans for new programs that they will execute in the next lesson. As they develop the knowledge and skills they interact on deeper and more individual levels with the content (constructivist).
Ultimately, I hope the combination of early success, supportive and relationship building feedback and autonomy in project choice will keep students engaged and moving forward in the process.
Gutierrez, K. (2014). Designing for motivation: Three theories eCampus designers can use. Retrieved from https://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/340354/Designing-for-Motivation-Three-Theories-eCampus-Designers-Can-Use