February 6, 2021


Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and
learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education.


Inviting Learning Environments Need to Be Intrinsically Motivating and Challenging in All Instructional Settings


I was introduced recently to The Jenkin’s Curve. The curve was developed by Lee Jenkins, Ph.D. and asked two simple questions of over 3,000 teachers: (1) What grade level do you teach and (2) what percent of your students love school? A quick glance at the graph below depicts the curve. Does this align with your personal experiences as a student? What about those of your own children? How about the students in your school or district? The graph and a blog can be found in Education’s Invisible Problem. I wonder what this curve looks like when those questions are asked of students today learning in a remote or hybrid setting. Inviting places to learn are deliberately motivating by their challenge and feedback independent of the delivery–remote, hybrid, or in-person.

3 Big Ideas

  1. https://campaign-image.com/zohocampaigns/classroom-design-protocols_zc_v7_2_719417000012872956.pngIntrinsic motivation matters. 
    Visit a kindergarten the first week of school. Once the separation anxiety fades, what do you see and hear? Jenkins notes, “Students arrive already motivated, with their brains seeking new knowledge to soak up. Their hands teem with excitement at the thoughts of learning to read, making friends, figuring out math problems, and exploring the world around them. These students come prepackaged with all intrinsic motivation they need for life.” I agree with Jenkins that we need to flip our thinking about motivation from “what can I do to motivate these students,” to “what can I do to help my students maintain their level of intrinsic motivation?” This question is especially important in the remote setting when planning instruction that is relevant and challenging. “Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation” in Edutopia reminds us of the power of accomplishing something challenging.
    View a full page infographic on Classroom Design Protocols in an Instructional Soul blog by Dan Evans.
  2. Strive for challenge.
    Challenge is different for every student and we should pay close attention to individual differences. Learning is about challenge and to be successful with any challenge every learner’s social-emotional wellbeing is a must. Improving requires challenge; effective teachers and leaders set stretch goals for themselves and with their students. With the stretch goals, they build a bridge to get students from where they are to where they want to be. Everyone’s bridge is different. I read a troubling statistic that 50% of everything taught in every class, kids already know. Not such a challenge nor a stretch, right? Check out Zachary Jason’s article in Harvard ED Magazine titled “Bored Out of Their Minds.” Big ideas from the article include adding more choice to the classroom, offering exams as written or oral, increasing group projects, incorporating role play, communicating relevance, and examining schedules for appropriateness. Each of these approaches are applicable in remote, hybrid, and in-person learning. Pick one and give it a go. Let me know how it went.


  3. Make students assessment capable.
    Students who are assessment capable are able to interpret their own performance in light of success criteria. They know their current level of understanding and where they are going. Assessment capable students are confident to accept challenge and tools to guide their learning towards success. They seek feedback and recognize that their errors are opportunities to learn. Assessment capable students are able to monitor their own progress, adjust their learning, recognize their success (and failure) and teach others. Take a look at this infographic for Developing Assessment Capable Learners from the Missouri Department of Education


“Promise me you’ll remember: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


“It isn’t where you come from. It’s where you’re going that counts. ”  
– Ella Fitzgerald


1 Question

Make a Jenkins Curve for yourself and your district or school. Does it resemble the one here? How can you ensure the enthusiasm drop doesn’t happen? 




About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.










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