Students have an innate desire to learn and more learning takes place when doing rather than when listening. (4) This begins in pre-school and kindergarten when children have fun while learning by playing with blocks, coloring, drawing, etc. This is their first experience with active learning. But then as education progresses through grade school, high school and college, something bad happens. That is, fun learning activities are slowly replaced with often very boring listening activities filled with inane factoids, and consequently, students often become disinterested. The disinterest is seen in the form of poor class attendance, and the lack of motivation is palpable through continual yawns, bobbing heads, and walking to the back of the classroom and looking at student laptops to see how many are streaming Netflix or shopping for shoes. As educators that take part in this process, we actively destroy their innate desire to learn. We do not do this intentionally, as all of us want our students to learn as much as possible. However, with the ever increasing and endless mountain of information, we cannot teach them everything, and often feel that we should be actively teaching, rather than letting them actively learn. (3) Thus, after hours, days and years of sitting in class “listening”, the traditional “sage on the stage” can slowly chip away at the inner desire to learn. But, if this internal motivation can be decreased by boring activities, can it also be increased by fun or intriguing activities?
As educators, we hold an awesome power that has the potential to inspire and increase student motivation. Student-centered learning activities that include but are not limited to collaborative group testing, inquiry-based learning, team-based learning and laboratory exercises (5) provide students with the opportunity to apply their minds, to have fruitful discussions with their peers (2) and to see and appreciate the complex beauty that science and medicine are. If we can provide our students with learning activities that open their imaginations and make them feel excitement, we can actively increase their innate desire to learn, and improve their chances of success. (1) In doing so, the awesome potential power that we hold can become fully realized in the form of life-long learners.
- Augustyniak RA, Ables AZ, Guilford P, Lujan HL, Cortright RN, and DiCarlo SE. Intrinsic motivation: an overlooked component for student success. Adv Physiol Educ 40: 465-466, 2016.
- Cortright RN, Collins HL, and DiCarlo SE. Peer instruction enhanced meaningful learning: ability to solve novel problems. Adv Physiol Educ 29: 107-111, 2005.
- DiCarlo SE. Too much content, not enough thinking, and too little fun! Adv Physiol Educ 33: 257-264, 2009.
- Freeman S, Eddy SL, McDonough M, Smith MK, Okoroafor N, Jordt H, and Wenderoth MP. Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111: 8410-8415, 2014.
- Goodman BE. An evolution in student-centered teaching. Adv Physiol Educ 40: 278-282, 2016.
Robert A. Augustyniak is an Associate Professor and Physiology Discipline Chair at Edward Via college of Osteopathic Medicine- Carolinas Campus, Spartanburg, SC. Rob received his Ph.D. in Physiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, and subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX. A cardiovascular physiologist by training, his studies have focused on the blood pressure regulation during exercise and in heart failure and hypertensive states. In 2009, Rob became a founding faculty member at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine where he began to focus on the scholarship of medical education. These research interests continued to grow when he moved to Spartanburg, SC in 2013. He is profoundly interested in how medical student motivation impacts learning and in finding best practices in teaching and assessment that can increase motivation. For the past several years, he has been and continues to be active within the leadership of the APS Teaching Section.