What factors motivate students to learn?

how_learning_worksMotivation is the potential investment that an individual has in reaching a desired state or outcome – in other words how relevant a topic feels to a student. Motivation comes from perceived value and expectancy.

A goal has to have value in order to want to achieve it.

  • Attainment value: the joy of mastering,
  • Intrinsic value: the joy of doing the task,
  • Instrumental value: this helps you achieve another goal.

Expectancy is the perception of how likely a student feels they are to succeed.

Attainment and intrinsic value may be out of our reach on a four-week EM rotation. However the breadth of EM fits perfectly for creating instrumental value. We have enough variety to find a presentation that can connect to a student’s ultimate goal – matching into the residency of their choice.

Provide authentic, real-world tasks – use real cases. Get an ortho case, a peds case, a neuro case. Make them short and to the point. They should be easy enough for a student to do such that they get a lot of small wins, building confidence and good EM habits. They should expect to succeed.

Can even make a library of cases, good EKG’s, x-rays, etc on the site arranged by the various specialities.

Other suggestions:

  • Show passion when teaching
  • Provide rubrics, targeted feedback and effective study strategies.
  • Give students an opportunity to reflect

In The Room

Often we’re faced with unmotivated students who haven’t chosen Emergency Medicine as their speciality. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find something relevant to them.

The first thing we need to do is ask them, “what are you going into?” Then remember that answer and direct students toward relevant cases.

You’re going into orthopedics, right? Go see that knee pain.
Oh, a budding OB/Gyn? Just your day, there’s a patient with vaginal bleeding in room #16.

Even if there is no obvious match, you can still tie a seemingly unrelated case into their specialty of interest. In a patient with chest pain, tell the hopeful orthopedist that acute coronary syndromes can present as shoulder pain.

The counterpoint to this argument is that students should be seeing more than just what they want to see. They need to see all of Emergency Medicine. Though once the students feel they have a stake in this rotation, this will likely spill over to their eagerness to see other patients.

What factors motivate students to learn?

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