Dumbing down is not necessarily the best solution

A teacher working with less able S1 students succeeded in motivating his students by giving them something more challenging to do. He reflects: “… I was really satisfied when I found that my Ss loved having activities in the lesson and it didn’t destroy the classroom discipline. I was so satisfied because I saw happiness in their eyes and their willingness to try. I was also surprised because I was challenging their cognitive thinking and it turned out they could achieve the task!” 

Teachers having less able or unmotivated students could sometimes reason: “Since their English standard is so low, I can only give them something easy to do; and maybe they will then re-gain a sense of achievement.” This line of thinking is understandable. As a result, they may dumb down their teaching, hoping that their students can follow and learn something. But there is another possibility: students’ motivation dwindles further because of the lack of challenge. Adolescent and teenage students are particularly susceptible to that. Even if they are under-achievers academically, they are becoming cognitively and emotionally complex beings. So the solution to rekindling less able students’ interest in learning may not lie in dumbing down our teaching, but in aiming for work which has the appropriate level of challenge!


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