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Encouraging student motivation with Khan Academy

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The content on Khan Academy is designed to be engaging for students. And—because Khan Academy empowers students to make choices about their own learning—there are a variety of ways to get students motivated. Below, you will find tips to help students gain confidence in using Khan Academy, develop a growth mindset, establish a connection between learning and life, work collaboratively, celebrate success, and more!

Gain confidence in using Khan Academy

Start by explaining to your class why you’re using Khan Academy and how it works. Help your students gain confidence in using Khan Academy as a tool. Some teachers recommend starting with a Khan Academy scavenger hunt or assigning a fun piece of content, like The art of storytelling, to get students excited about learning. Other teachers recommend using the Learner home to show Khan Academy from the student’s perspective, while highlighting aspects of the Khan Academy motivation system: mastery points, badges, and avatars.
We’re also excited to share some new resources with you that can either be used as printables or as digital activities for your classroom: Khan Academy Bingo and Choice Boards with special Khan stickers!
We hope these resources will bring a little variety and fun for you and your students, whether you’re in the classroom or sharing a digital space together.

Strengthen relationships

Build in time to connect with students outside of academic content, and for them to share with their classmates. It’s vital to provide opportunities for students to build bonds with their teacher and classmates, especially in distance learning environments.
Try Khan Academy’s Refresh, a collection of five minute activities that provide a fun break from the standard academic curriculum. Use prompts, like the one seen below, as a warm-up before class starts, as a mental stretch between activities, or to close a learning session on a high note.

Build understanding of mastery learning

It’s important to introduce your students to the fundamentals of mastery learning. Share why you want students to use Khan Academy and how focusing on mastery learning can help them succeed. If you’d like a little help, try this student-friendly video or this article on getting students started with mastery learning.
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What is mastery learning?See video transcript

Develop a growth mindset

Another tip is to integrate growth mindset activities to help your students see mistakes as learning opportunities. Mistakes are essential to learning, so it’s important to help your students see them as natural—not something to fear.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out Khan Academy’s growth mindset activities, created in collaboration with PERTS, a Stanford center that builds on the research done by Carol Dweck. These activities are fun and age appropriate, and they provide a structured way for students to explore the science behind the idea that “You can learn anything”.
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You can learn anythingSee video transcript
As part of developing growth mindsets, emphasize that effort leads to success. Invite students to collaborate with you to establish classroom norms, including setting norms for synchronous learning time in distance learning environments. In particular, develop a norm around how students can ask for help when they get stuck. Many teachers recommend a three-before-me approach where students watch a video, try a hint, and ask a classmate before turning to the teacher for help.

Establish relevance

One of the major theories of motivation is called Expectancy-Value Theory. This theory serves as a good framework for thinking about how people are motivated in education and many other areas of life. It holds that people are more likely to do something when they expect that they will be successful at it and when they value the activity.
You can probably relate this to your own life. You are more likely to do something when you think you will be successful and less likely to do something if you think you will probably fail. You are also more likely to do something when there is value to you. This value can come from an internal feeling, like happiness. It can come from a goal you have, like learning a new language because you are going on a trip. When trying to motivate kids of any age to complete school work, consider these two questions:
1) How can I help them believe they will be successful?
2) How can I increase the value of the activity and how might I connect this learning to a student’s greater goals?
If you’re looking for a way to help make learning-to-life connections more clear to students, assign resources from Khan Academy’s Careers content. The Careers course includes information on a wide variety of careers—everything from city planner to registered nurse to chef de cuisine —and videos of professionals who share more about the skills they need to be successful in their chosen field.
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Chef de cuisine: What I do and how much I makeSee video transcript

Collaborate to set meaningful goals and monitor progress

Spend some time working with students to set measurable, achievable goals—both long and short-term. While having a long-term mastery goal is great, we recognize students also need to break up big goals into smaller chunks in order to see meaningful, short-term progress.
Encourage students to be part of the goal-setting process by working with their teacher to set high goals that still feel achievable. One key to supporting students' goal-setting skills is to explain how achieving each smaller goal is a step towards reaching the greater goal of mastery.
Some teachers encourage students to focus on unit mastery, while others prefer to focus on skill mastery in service of mastering an entire course. You and your students can easily track this information on Khan Academy (goal-setting templates available here). Be sure to include space for students to reflect on their progress, which can stimulate further reflective discussion with their teacher. (Check out this article for more on setting goals and monitoring progress.)

Work collaboratively, not competitively

Find ways for students to work together toward common goals and support each other in making progress.
Khan Academy’s fall campaign, LearnStorm is a program that gives teachers a fun way to help students gain skills, foster growth mindsets, and build teamwork. LearnStorm events encourage students to complete assignments created by their teacher, and classes can only succeed when they work together toward a common goal.

Celebrate success and use rewards wisely

Khan Academy empowers your students by involving them in their own learning and growth, and your support is essential on their journey to success. Don’t forget to make time to celebrate with your students as they progress and reach goals!
  • Keep rewards small, and focus on things you are willing to give repeatedly.
  • Encourage students to do something they are not otherwise likely to do.
  • Start by giving rewards frequently and for small things, and then gradually lengthen the time between rewards.
  • Make sure students know what specific behavior is being rewarded.
  • Focus rewards more on effort and less on results.
  • For older students, take time to collaborate on what efforts and outcomes will result in rewards.
If you’re looking for an easy way to recognize their achievements, use these student certificates—they’re shareable both digitally and in print in 10 different languages!

Involve parents and caregivers

Get the school community involved by sharing information from Khan Academy with parents/guardians to let them know about the effort and progress their children are making. Parents and caregivers play an essential role in student progress, especially in distance learning environments. Khan Academy is available in over 40 languages, so families can learn at home in the language they are most comfortable with, which can be beneficial when bringing families into the learning process.
To help parents/caregivers get started on Khan Academy, use this sample letter for parents or Khan Academy’s parent quick start guide to help parents create their own accounts.

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