Education is one of the most important values of our society. How can we, as teachers, relate this message to our youth? How can we engage students in learning? In this paper, I examine student engagement in a social studies classroom. In a review of literature, I found many theorists who examined both motivation and attention in the classroom. Little research, however, has been done on how to first interest the student in social studies.
As a lens through which to approach my qualitative research, I chose to use the writings of John Dewey. His beliefs that education should be related to prior knowledge and that a teacher should be a facilitator in the classroom formed the basis of my observation in a seventh grade social studies classroom. My paper stems mainly from observations, but I also drew some conclusions from a survey I gave the students.
I found that a teacher is one of the biggest influences on students' motivation in a classroom. Students want school to be enjoyable, and if it is, they will be more willing to learn. If they are able to relate new material to prior knowledge, they are more willing to take interest in the subject. This, combined with allowing students to work in groups, provides an ideal environment for student interest. The teacher needs to provide this type of environment and accommodate the variety of students' learning styles. Learning styles vary among the students from those who prefer to work individually, those who work better with hands-on activities, and those who work better when information is presented in a lecture format.
This study provides information on what will interest a seventh grade social studies student. The information allows a teacher to consider the needs of the student and provides others the opportunity to take a deeper look at the life of a young student in the classroom.
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