lifelong learning

How tocultivate lifelong learning with these 7 strategies

Learn how to boost children’s motivation and cultivate lifelong learning with seven practical strategies. These include identifying interests, fostering social connections, and praising effort to encourage a lasting love for learning.

To become lifelong learners, it’s important that children are motivated. Did you know that there are a range of strategies and activities that you can incorporate throughout your child’s school life to help develop interest, build confidence and self-esteem and increase motivation? Ultimately the development of a range of skills and interests through school and home may allow a child to discover their passion, igniting the spark of lifelong learning.

First, it is important to understand how motivation works. There are two primary types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that a person engages in because they personally find the task satisfying — for example, reading and learning about a topic in a book because you find the topic interesting. In contrast, extrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that a person engages in for external rewards — for example, reading and learning about a topic in a book because you want to receive higher grades. While we use both types of motivation throughout life, research has shown that students who are motivated intrinsically performed higher academically. It found that key intrinsic motivational factors that assisted with learning were students’ desire to be involved, curiosity to find out more about their interests, challenge such as working out complex topics or tasks, and interaction such as creating social connections.

While it’s not always possible to incorporate intrinsic motivators at school and at home — and students will use both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators — adding intrinsic motivators when possible can enhance learning or engagement in a particular task. To assist in your child’s development and to help value lifelong learning, here are seven ways to increase motivation.

Find an interest or hobby

One of the best starting points is to help your child find an interest or hobby. If they do have a particular interest or hobby, try and build on it. Highly motivating activities for children are ones in which they can apply real-life situations to a learning task, which also provides meaning to an activity. One way this can be explored is through attending museums, which often cater to kids. Museum programs easily explain to children how things work and how particular topics relate to real-life situations.

Talking to your child about what specific programs are offered at the museum can enhance their natural curiosity and motivation to want
to explore and learn more about a particular topic. For example, an early years (three- to five-year-olds) program once offered at the Australian Museum called Mini Explorers investigated minibeasts that could be found in our very own backyard. This topic can be easily discussed, questioned (questions promote learning) and enjoyed by children. A trip to the museum can provide an opportunity to develop a child’s interest or skills and can also end up being a fun day out.

Build social connections and increase skills

To facilitate learning, a child will need to feel connected to others. Kids’ clubs can provide a sense of belonging and build trust, respect, connection and community with others. There is often a diverse range of kids’ clubs within each community and school that can range from science, music, drama, photography, martial arts, sports, scouts and summer camps.

If you’re having trouble working out what options to explore with your child, make a list of what they enjoy then decide whether the activity is suited for a club or class in your area. For example, if they enjoy experiments and investigation, explore science clubs. If your child draws or paints often, explore art classes (although some clubs may offer art). Inviting a friend or two to be a part of your child’s learning experiences at home — whether it is working on homework together, a hobby or a day out at the museum — is a great idea. Having friends who connect with the same interest as them will help increase motivation and enhance learning.

Build self-esteem, confidence and positivity

Confidence, self-esteem and motivation are important components of learning. A child will generally choose a hobby in something they are interested in, which will allow them to develop their skills, learn more and, most importantly, enjoy. It often evolves into a strength area of the child, as a result building a child’s confidence. Also attending extra-curricular activities to increase skills (such as local kids’ clubs) is a great way to improve confidence and self-esteem.

Don’t forget to praise your child where credit is due. If your child has been working on a challenging project, praise your child for their efforts and not just the results. Using a statement such as, “You tried assembling that aeroplane wing a few ways and you finally got it. Well done!” This can help build confidence and self-esteem and increase motivation to attempt another challenging and enjoyable project. A child who feels successful is more likely to be motivated.

While encouragement can be the catalyst to success, let your child make mistakes too. Guide them through ways to start again or try a completely different direction. Let them know adults make mistakes and sometimes we can learn better or new things from these situations. While something didn’t work out, it’s also important for them to know that they gave it their best shot, helping them to build a positive mindset.

Become involved

A 2012 report published by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth found that parental involvement has a positive impact on student achievement as well as the social-emotional development of the child. Parental involvement (also known as parental engagement) helps increase a child’s motivation. While parents are encouraged to participate in particular school events that promote social aspects and a community environment, parental involvement in the transfer of learning from school to home can also allow for higher academic achievement.

Incorporating ways to engage in your child’s school journey, whether it is helping with homework or a school project, talking about a favourite school activity or conversing about the day at school (including discussions about social aspects of the day, which can help guide your child through any social issues), and linking school learning with events or situations at home will not only provide a supportive environment for your child but build positive educational experiences. For instance, if a child is learning about recipes or cooking at school, replicating the cooking experience at home will provide your child with the knowledge, confidence and enthusiasm to show or discuss what they’ve learnt. Working on this type of hands-on activity is great way to promote intrinsic motivation, and also ends up being an easy way to talk about school. Your interest in their journey at school will allow them to value their learning experiences too.

Encourage choice, incorporate games

Having the freedom to make choices in life provides people with empowerment. Having the opportunity to make choices can also enhance motivation. Often schools try to create ways to offer choice in subjects such as allowing choice of particular projects or books.

However, this cannot always be achieved. While particular school topics may not be of interest to your child, school projects or homework will still need to be completed. One way to include an intrinsic motivator is to connect games with learning, focusing not on winning but on the experience and joy of it. If your child is having difficulty understanding their homework, there are many games that can link learning to a topic, especially in English and maths tasks, which may give a child the learning success needed to help get through their homework. You may have a few options for games, but if your child is having difficulty making decisions, it may be necessary to limit choice-making to two items. Games are a great way to make learning fun.

Incorporate an emotionally literate environment

The term “emotional literacy” means the ability for an individual to understand their own feelings and behaviours, and to be able to self-regulate their feelings and behaviours. As a positive consequence, a person is then better equipped to understand the feelings and behaviours of others, therefore improving their social skills.

Beneficial supports to help your child self-regulate their behaviours can include breathing or meditation techniques, which can help a child stay calm if they’re feeling angry or anxious. An emotionally literate environment has a positive impact on achievement. A child who has an emotional understanding will feel comfortable with themselves and others. This allows them the opportunity to concentrate; therefore, this particular environment increases the motivation to learn.

Construct a long-term plan or create ideas

As a child progresses through school, it’s important to have ideas about what they would enjoy or are enjoying, and later a long-term plan that incorporates the skills to be acquired at school to help achieve transitions from primary to high school and to tertiary studies. There are many pathways from school to career options.

While a student may only be ready to develop a long-term plan during high school, having ideas, interests or hobbies during primary school are the building blocks for skill development. Ideas or a plan can always be revised and changed along the way. Or they may become more specific and focus on advanced courses. For example, to become a civil engineer, a high school student would select or focus on subjects ranging from physics, mathematics, technologies and science. A future plan, hobbies or interests enables a teenager or child to keep interested in their learning and value education too. A student who has an idea of who they want to become when they leave school will be more motivated to achieve at school.

Most importantly, help make your child’s learning experiences fun; your optimism in your child’s journey highlights to them that you value their learning experiences. Remember, being successful in a career doesn’t always mean receiving top results in high school mathematics and English. Jamie Oliver is one of the most successful chefs in the world. Dyslexia didn’t stop him from achieving international acclaim. While Oliver worked through learning difficulties at school, he enjoyed school and developed an interest and passion. With your help maybe your child can become motivated and find their passion too.

Article Featured in WellBeing #203 

Shelley Viskovich

Shelley Viskovich

Shelley Viskovich works with clients across Australia helping them achieve a happier and more fulfilling life on all levels. Her expertise is in the area of change, breakthrough and transformation meaning she has the ability to pinpoint exactly what needs to change in your life and then gives you the tools you need to breakthrough old patterns, transform your life and be who you want to be.

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