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How to motivate your learners?


Development of the content:

Thanks to the feedback obtained through the compilation of a dedicated questionnaire, it was possible to observe what needs emerged and the expectations, barriers and challenges identified by the children, helping us to study and evaluate possible actions to encourage and promote the participation of students.


Among the most cited motivational factors are: (1) the possibility of meeting new people who share the same passions, (2) testing themselves and their limitations, testing themselves also in practical and group activities, (3) having a more fluent communication and also improving their English. These aspects overlap with the challenges that young people want to fulfil, such as: (1) to be able to manage and coordinate their extracurricular time (2) to learn as many notions as possible for personal growth (3) to invest their time in something that may be useful in the future, both at school and at work level. To promote these processes, however, they believe it is essential to have an open mind, be curious and enthusiastic, be constant and persistent over time and not give up on the first difficulties. Unfortunately, however, several obstacles emerged from the survey, some of which are difficult to handle, which limit or slow down the entry of teenagers into the STEM Clubs. The daily routine is in fact very busy, among the school commitments, sports and the many tasks assigned, leaving less and less space to cultivate one’s passions. In addition, there are difficulties in the efficient management of the available time, logistical and distance problems, and some parents do not consider this initiative as important as a work experience could be. Another barrier listed is the fact that you have no knowledge of the STEM clubs available in the area, which could be solved by creating a web platform, or an app that groups all STEM clubs on the basis of certain filters that can facilitate the search, for example: place/area, cost, duration, type of course contents, availability of a free or paid shuttle etc... even the development of Open Days, such as those organised by schools, could be important both for the promotion of these clubs, and to show concretely to students and parents, what the purposes of the activities are, how the learning process takes place in interactive and practical terms and, above all, what could be the results obtainable from the experience.


Based on this preliminary analysis and the information received, we believe that in order to stimulate the participation of young people and to keep them motivated, it is necessary to consider the following points:

Active Involvement and Stimulating environment:

create a welcoming and stimulating environment where students feel comfortable and encouraged to share ideas and opinions. 

Tools: multimedia tools, interactive materials, flexible furnishings, digital communication systems can be used.

To create a stimulating school environment, it is necessary to offer a welcoming and open space. The classroom atmosphere must be welcoming, reassuring and open to make students feel comfortable in the learning environment.

Space layout and interaction:

  • Organise the furniture in such a way as to encourage collaboration and interaction between participants. Arrange U-shaped or circle-shaped tables so that everyone can easily see and communicate with each other. 

  • Provide interactive tools and equipment that encourage guys to work together and explore new concepts. For example, interactive whiteboards and screens, which allow you to share presentations, videos or digital assets. Digital teaching (tablets, computers and smartboards) can make learning more engaging, including computer simulations and laboratory activities.

  • Use bright colors and adequate lighting to create a stimulating and welcoming atmosphere (orange, bright green, yellow, electric blue), also through some furnishing elements such as: educational posts, signs and motivational phrases, artifacts of various kinds. 

  • Provide students with large and flexible spaces that promote social interaction, group work and concentration. Asking students for an opinion on the layout of the classroom could help in the development of a useful environment for everyone. 

  • Overcoming the traditional classroom with chairs and desks arranged in rows, in favour of a new centrality between teachers and students in order to implement collaboration, research, reflection, construction and sharing of knowledge. Rethinking the concept of “class” as a research laboratory to co-build knowledge and skills in a context rich in relationships, exchanges, collaborative research to solve cognitive problems.

Some examples of innovative schools from an architectural point of view and of rethinking the interior spaces: take for example three cases of “new schools” in Europe: the Gymnasium of Ørestad in Denmark, the Het 4e gymnasium in Amsterdam and the VITTRA school in Stockholm, Sweden. The architectures and interior spaces are designed in such a way as to encourage the introduction of new models of active and cooperative digital teaching identified, in the EU, from the “Lisbon Strategy” to “Digital skills”.


By analysing these architectural projects, you can view two constants:

  1. Massive technological infrastructure: broadband, wireless hot spots, virtual environments for the management of teaching (Virtual Learning Environment); tablet/notebook for students and teachers.

   2. Absence of “classes” as a minimum architectural unit. The most widespread educational space is that of the laboratory where   

       the activities of the students who replace the lessons are carried out. There are also common spaces for individual study 

       and/or informal learning, and an auditorium where some teachers or external experts hold lectures.


In addition, the old homeworks are replaced by the continuation of the laboratory activities, carried out at school in person, in the virtual learning environment of the group of students with the tutoring of the teacher. This allows you to solve some key problems, also emerged from our survey: a better time management by students, having a reduced load of homeworks and of different types; reduced stress caused by homework with frustration and abandonment in case you can't complete them; lower family expenses for the need for repetitions and a better transport/logistics for parents.


Following, some photos example:

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  • Create a positive and open atmosphere (everyone’s ideas and opinions are valued). 

  • Encourage active listening, mutual respect and prohibition of interruptions during conversations. 

  • Show interest in the opinions and ideas of each member of the group (e.g.: ask questions to deepen and empathise)

  • Balance participation among group members (whether someone is quieter or less involved) and engage everyone. 

  • Valorising diversity by emphasising the importance of having different perspectives for enriched learning 

  • Make sure everyone feels safe sharing their opinions and ideas (no judgements).


Connecting to Real Problems:

show participants how STEM concepts apply in real life and how they can help solve real-world problems. 

Tools and contents: case studies, testimonials from professionals in the sector, visits to laboratories or companies, projects with a social or environmental impact can be presented.


Here some related videos:


Personalization of the experience: adapt the laboratory to the needs of the participants. Linking to the problems exposed by students: an example of a potentially developable action, in order to incentivize students to attend STEM clubs and help them in the management of extracurricular time, could be to make a pool among the students, before defining the club schedule or make a presentation with focus groups among all interested people (target students) coming already with some proposals. Personalization on the content level cannot be separated from the next point.


Here some related videos:

Discover Your Learning Style

What Is Personalized Learning?

What is Personalized Learning?


Create as homogeneous groups as possible in terms of entry skills:

this makes it possible to greatly reduce the risk of frustration and abandonment by those who do not feel ready/up to the proposed activities or, on the other hand, by those who do not learn anything new from the proposed experience. Tools: incoming interview, presentation in plenary with clarification of the requirements, possibly also tests, but taking care that it is not lived as an external evaluation (type of school verification). We propose it as a useful tool for both the organisation and the student on the model of language pre-tests.


Relationship with the course of study at school:

if the club is proposed in collaboration with an educational institution, it may be useful if it explicitly connects to the path that the student is following at school. The club could develop more in-depth and concrete skills that in the classroom can only be hinted at in terms of knowledge rather than skills. In this way one would probably have the support of the teacher and perhaps even the parents, if properly informed. How to promote it: STEM Open days where not only students, but also adults around them (parents, teachers...) can understand the value of the investment, time and money.


Key objectives of the stem club considering the youth target:


Awakening pupils' cognitive needs (problem-based tasks) learn new things/understand how to solve specific problems/need orientation, check if the idea I have of that job corresponds to reality and if I like it.


Here an interesting video:

How to Choose the Right Career Path in 7 Simple Steps


Awakening pupils' social needs (social climate in the classroom), meeting new people, like me... we are in the growth phase where the peer group is important.


Here some related videos:

Adolescenza e ricerca di identità (Adolescence and research of the identity)

Supportive School and Classroom Climate | Schoolwide SEL

Designing Supportive Learning Environments


Pay attention to the importance of the role of the teacher/facilitator 

A teacher can motivate his/her students in many ways. 


1. Paying attention to the teacher's expectations of the pupils (Pygmalion effect - positive teacher's positive expectation leads to a positive student outcome; Golem effect - teacher's negative expectation leads to a negative student outcome and the pupil resigns to the possibility of a better outcome)

Pygmalion effect explained in a simple way: The Pygmalion Effect

Pygmalion effect and Golem effect with the explanation of the origin of the words and some practical examples 


2. Awakening performance motivation (social norm, individual norm),

develop motivation to put in place skills to get involved and achieve individual or group goals. The facilitator prepares challenges (problems to be solved) with which participants can and must confront either in a subgroup or at an individual level. Not by setting it as an “assessment for a vote”, but also to self-verify one’s knowledge. This also allows us to create situations that put emphasis on performance.

The behaviour of an individual who wants to achieve a certain performance can be divided into several phases:

·        arousal of certain needs,

·        assessing one's own ability to achieve the performance,

·        the expectation that the need will be satisfied,

·        the decision to perform the relevant action.

Student performance needs include, but are not limited to, the need for autonomy, competence, successful performance, the need to avoid failure, and even the need to avoid success.


Here an interesting video

The Science Of Motivation


3. Eliminating the feeling of boredom and avoiding fear of school, of a particular subject, of testing. The concept is: skills are developed, but we are not in school. The facilitator must avoid rigid – judgmental attitudes. The “program” of the course is not to be followed rigidly, it is a track to be developed also based on the learning outcomes, the motivation and curiosity of the participants, and also on events that happen in reality and that can be inserted because of interest. Orientation is on the skills and involvement of pupils, rather than on predefined content.


Deepening on MOTIVATION

Intrinsic motivation

When a person performs an activity for its own sake, without expectation of praise, reward, avoiding punishment, it is intrinsic motivation. Behaviour caused by intrinsic motivation is more stable, more adaptive, more creative and more spontaneous. When a child decides to go play basketball because they enjoy the game itself, this is intrinsic motivation.

·        It promotes spontaneous and creative behaviour in the pupil, which leads to greater school success.

·        It builds a positive relationship with the student’s lifelong learning.

·        It uses the individual abilities, experiences and interests of the student.

·        It strengthens the student’s self-assessment by its character.

·        It gives the pupil the desired responsibility for achieving the stated goals.

·        It builds and develops for each individual individually and over a longer period of time.

·        He leads the pupil to learn from the inner need and for his own satisfaction, he does not expect a reward from someone else.

·        What he learns is meaningful and beneficial to him.


Extrinsic motivation

When a person performs an activity to satisfy another one’s need, it is extrinsic motivation. Behaviour led by extrinsic motivating factors is instrumental in nature - it is a tool to achieve some external motivating factors - e.g. reward or avoidance of punishment. When a child decides to go to the playground to practice a double-take in order to get a good grade in school in that skill, the motivation is extrinsic.


Further splitting extrinsic motivation into four types according to how extrinsic motivation approaches intrinsic motivation:

o   external regulation,

o   passive regulation,

o   identified regulation,

o   integrated regulation.


·        It helps pupils of younger school age achieve specific learning goals.

·        It is easier for students to overcome obstacles in managing tasks.

·        It has an immediate, although short-term, effect – usually fading after a given goal is achieved.

·        The teacher determines in advance what and how it will be evaluated, the pupils better understand the intention.

·        It leads the pupil to work for others, usually dependent on the help of the teacher. 

·        Effective for simpler teaching and guided learning activities.

Here a video related to Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation: 


Here some final videos that can help to stimulate STEM learning and show some new approaches to teach STEM contents:




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