Material by Sergei Afonin published on 09/28/2017


One of the questions that teachers often ask when starting blended learning is “How do you encourage students to actually do pre-class work and come to class prepared?”

Actually this is not a new question. Teachers have always struggled with how to motivate students to do homework, read, and prepare for class. However, the conversations about the flipped classroom have put this question at the top of the list of problems that one has to face in the organization of education.

Unlike courses, where content is primarily delivered through classroom lectures, active learning courses rely heavily on student preparation and content use during class. It is almost impossible for students to “go through the material” without doing homework to prepare for the classroom. You can have the most effective lesson plan, the most creative learning activities, and the most innovative technology. But, if your students are not prepared, your plans will not come true.

You need to start by answering the following questions:

  1. What are the concerns my students face? Are they intimidated by this topic? What experience do they bring with them?
  2. What can I do to create a learning environment where students feel motivated to complete pre-class work?
  3. How can I motivate my students to create new knowledge?
  4. What can I do to make students see the value of pre-class work?
  5. What methods am I already using to guide students to success? Which of these strategies work well? Which ones do I need to change?
  6. The answers to these questions will help you organize your students’ homework in a way that makes it clearer, more convenient, and easier for them.

The answers to these questions will help you organize your students’ homework in a way that makes it clearer, more convenient, and easier for them.

5 ways to motivate students to complete assignments.

1. Redefine Roles

During the learning process, children learn to learn. And this is one of the most important competencies in today’s world. So help your students in this hard work – to teach yourself to learn.

At the beginning of the topic, discuss the upcoming work with students, try to allocate time together. Then discuss and answer their questions and concerns.

To motivate the discussion at the very first lesson of the topic, to show curiosity and assess the readiness of students, you can use the so-called. “big questions”

  • read the learning outcomes on the topic carefully again
  • for each result, write a discussion question (in fact, not for every result you can find such a question, but for a topic in general, there is such a question for sure)
  • integrate these questions into the course: bring some for class discussion, some online, and the most interesting question for the first lesson.

In this way, you will begin to transfer a number of your functions to students, transferring responsibility for their own learning to them.

2. Refine and make the work visible

How do you know if the students actually completed the pre-class work? How do students know if they have done their pre-class work correctly? How will you hold students accountable for doing (or not doing) pre-class work if the students can’t show you the result?

Answer your questions:

  1. Are learning outcomes specific and measurable?
  2. Can your students show them to you?
  3. Can the students complete the assignment within the time limit?
  4. How can you clarify the task and your expectations? Maybe they need, for example, a diagram or a template?

Let’s take, for example, a typical pre-class assignment: “Read Chapter 5.”

  1. How do you know if students are reading?
  2. Will you schedule a survey or note taking?
  3. What should they do when they read?
  4. Should they outline the chapter, draw a concept map, or answer questions at the end of the chapter?
  5. What should they do after they finish reading chapter 5?
  6. What can they provide as visible evidence that they have completed pre-class work?
  7. What is the result of reading chapter 5?

The answers to these questions should be related to the class activities you have planned, where the students will demonstrate that they have indeed completed the pre-class work and are ready for the lesson.

The more you can clarify the task, set expectations, and make visible the results of their pre-class work, the more likely your students are to actually do it.

3. Show the value of the work

When preparing work on the previous point, make sure that it will be used to support in-class work. When students see their pre-class work being evaluated and then used in class, they are more likely to come to class prepared.

For example, ask them to create chapter notes and use them in a quiz in class. Or ask them to create a mindmap of a specific part of the chapter, and in class discuss and compile a general map of the whole chapter. Or you can ask them to decide on their opinion on a controversial issue and prepare arguments in defense of their position for the lesson. There are many ways to create value from pre-class work. Make sure students see how their work will be used and why it matters.

4. Highlight what’s important and set a time frame

Timelines are a simple yet effective method to help students organize their time and make realistic plans for pre-class work.

In your instructions, include a time frame for how long the pre-class assignment should take. For example, your assignment says that students will watch a video, answer five questions, and submit their answers to the LMS. Break down the task and tell them how much time (on average) they should spend on each task. You can explain that the video is 10 minutes long and the questions should take approximately 15 minutes to answer.

Don’t forget: double or triple the amount of time it takes you to complete the task.

Do not think that “everything matters!” Not everything is important. There are specific topics, quotes, sections or pieces of text or video that are more important than others. Your students probably don’t have the knowledge or experience to filter this information, so point them to the important points.

Providing students with this information will increase the likelihood that they will complete pre-class work and come to class prepared.

5. Organize online support

Create support for students to complete the work. You can allocate a certain time in the evening for answering questions. To do this, you can use the online forums in the LMS to answer questions. And as a bonus, if you set aside certain times during the day or evening, it will encourage students to get the work done earlier and not procrastinate if they need extra help.

You can arrange for students to support each other so that they do not rely solely on you. Set up online research groups and provide private group forums to share information and support each other. Develop a reference guide for frequently asked questions based on questions asked by students in previous semesters. Appoint top students as peer mentors or teaching assistants to answer questions and provide additional information. Thus, building on the points above, you can motivate students to study and do homework.

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