A follow-up about asking students why they do what they do . . . For the second stage of this data-gathering exercise, I had students use Post-its to anonymously answer three questions at the beginning of class:
- How are you feeling right now? (the one-word check-in)
- Why are you feeling what you’re feeling?
- Why did you come to class today?
Nineteen out of twenty-three students, or more than eighty percent, reported feeling badly — the same proportion as last time. Of the nineteen, ten referenced being tired while four wrote “stressed.” Only one wrote “hungry.” The overwhelming majority of people in this group attributed their feelings to too little sleep and too much work.
The other four students felt “happy,” “good,” “relaxed,” and “chill.” Three of these students attributed their feelings to having had time to eat, buy coffee, or otherwise get ready before class. One of them mentioned sleeping comfortably, while another wrote “not super-stressed . . . trying to stay calm for the day ahead.”
I sorted answers to the third question into a few different categories, which are shown below, along with their frequencies. A few students’ comments fell into more than one category.
- I had to; attendance is mandatory: 7
- Get a good grade: 5
- I am paying for the course: 3
- Learn something: 3
- Participate in discussion: 1
- Collaborate with teammates on an upcoming assignment: 3
- Miscellaneous reasons — “My roommate told me I couldn’t skip,” “I was awake so I figured why not,” “Because I didn’t go to the last one,” “I try to go to all of my classes,” “Didn’t want to miss anything,” “To avoid falling behind”: 6
In sum, only seven students, or thirty percent, indicated that they had been intrinsically motivated to attend class that day; i.e., they came to learn or participate in a learning-oriented activity. More than half of the students indicated that they were extrinsically motivated by the fear that their grades would be harmed if they did not attend. What I think is interesting here: I do not penalize students for being absent from class — I regard them as legal adults, free to suffer the natural consequences of their actions. I do not grade on attendance or class participation. Only students’ written work, submitted before class, gets assessed.
More thoughts on this subject in a future post . . .