COVID-19 has placed global education in an unprecedented state of flux. Faced with both new and long-existing challenges, teachers are working harder than ever. They are being called to excel at a job that many of them were not trained for. They’re being asked to create an environment conducive to academic achievement without face-to-face interaction with their students.

Many of the difficulties that our educators are facing today have not been directly caused by COVID-19; they were merely exacerbated by it. Even before schools closed in the spring, teachers were already grappling with a crisis in student motivation.

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Student motivation is important because it can be directly linked to attainment. In a survey conducted in 2018, approximately 29 percent of students reported that they were “not engaged” and 24 percent reported being “actively disengaged.” Combined with the added challenge of virtual instruction, motivating students continues to preoccupy educators. In a recent survey on the difficulties of distance learning, teachers cited their biggest challenge to supporting their students was keeping them all engaged. This drop in student motivation is expected to continue as hybrid and distance learning models become normalized.

This “new normal” in education requires meeting old and new challenges with novel solutions. Education leaders should put their focus on giving teachers the tools they need to face the challenge of encouraging engagement and increasing student motivation–even when they are not physically present in the classroom–while also freeing up time for them to focus on one-to-one instruction and support for their students.

Technology as an effective tool for student motivation

Research has shown that education technology can help improve student outcomes when executed effectively. For example, in a study across grades 1-8 in the U.S., introducing tools such as student response systems devices and computer software improved student motivation and engagement by 9 percent. When deployed along with strategies such as micro-learning, gamification, and effective feedback from teachers, edtech tools can go a long way in inspiring motivation.

About the Author:

Martin McKay is the founder and CEO of Texthelp, a leading education technology company focused on helping learners of all ages and abilities improve their reading, writing, and math skills. Martin has spent work life developing education technology. His current areas of R&D include learning analytics and the automated assessment of writing and oral reading fluency through products such as WriQ and Fluency Tutor. Martin currently serves in an advisory capacity on the Universal Design for Learning council, and has previously served on the Assistive Technology Industry Association Board as well as the NIMAS board for the USA Office of Special Education Programs.


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