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5.3 LEARNING ISSUES

5.3.1 Motivation and Interest

Student motivation and interest in the learning of economics is one of the issues that arose from the data analysis. It was raised as one of their major concerns by five teachers during the pre-intervention phase. They perceived that a majority of the students in their classes were not motivated or interested in learning economics for various reasons.

First, economics is full of theory and it remains an abstract subject to many of their students. Thus, they believed the nature of economics itself made the students deviate from learning, as evidenced by the statement made by a teacher who stated that:

… economics is an abstract subject … students they feel it very dry like, you know, so they are not motivated because they see theories all the time [PRETI1].

Two of the students also described economics as an abstract subject and indicated the difficulties they had in learning it at school due to the absence of connection between the economics theories and their practical relevance to real life. The following comment reveals their views:

Economics is a difficult subject to learn because there is no connection between the theory and real life situations in the classrooms, so we find it really hard to understand it [PRESI8].

Second, lack of sufficient content knowledge among the students was another reason raised by the teachers for their students not being motivated to learn economics. One of the teachers labeled her students as weak in economic content, and argued that some of the students are there not to learn but to disrupt the classes, indicating that their influence on other students in the classroom destabilised the classroom learning atmosphere:

… they are weak students [low achievers], if you ignore them we cannot get a good atmosphere in the class because they are not interested in learning… Of course, we can’t make them to study, a child like [student name], and no way... He won’t do it [PRETI3].

Third, the bureaucratic procedures across the schools were blamed for the failure of their efforts to increase the students’ motivation in economics. For instance, three teachers noted some of their efforts to organise activities such as the inter-school economic debate competition once or twice a year, enterprising schemes for all Grade students, and the establishment of student forums in all schools.

However, their ideas were either rejected or ignored by the HoDs of respective schools. For example, one of the school’s economics students has been fighting for a club for many years but only last year they were told by the HoD that they need to show good results for the school for two consecutive years in order to register it. This was evident from a teacher’s comment indicating that:

… we need to bring good results [from the year-end examinations]

for consecutive two years before we could apply for that [club]

[PRETI6].

As a result many of the teachers were very much focused on the exam results.

This was also clear from one of the students as he indicated that teachers are very much obsessed with examination results:

… the teacher always talks about exam results. He thinks we are not good enough to make any good results for the school [PRESI7].

Throughout the observations of the nine teachers before the intervention students in the classrooms sat quietly but it was not clear what they were learning or whether they were interested. One of the observation notes indicated that:

It was a general pattern among the students to sit quietly, not necessarily pay attention to the teacher, until the teachers finish their explanations. The sign of demotivation, boredom, and no interest from the students to learn were observed [PRETO1].

Interestingly, seven out of the nine students rejected the above teachers’

arguments, indicating that they were not motivated to learn because of the method of teaching employed by the teachers. It appeared that students were dissatisfied with the teaching, and they argued that the current method of teaching was to be blamed for their lack of interest and motivation for learning economics. One student commented:

Always the same lecture. Sitting in the class without making any noise to be a good student! Actually we are bored with this type of teaching… [PRESI5].

Similarly, another two students reflected on the nature of their roles in the class and how that effected their learning, indicating that:

We are not motivated to learn because Miss does not allow us to share our ideas. She dictates notes for us from the textbook. If we ask questions then she says be quiet, or shut up things like that [PRESI1].

… she [teacher] does not often give us chances to engage in the class activities. It is boring to sit in the class to listen the teacher all the time [PRESI2].

Post-Intervention

After the intervention, it appeared that both teachers and students showed interest in and appreciation for cooperative learning. All nine teachers believed that cooperative learning would increase their students’ interest and motivation in the learning of economics. One of the teachers described this method as a “wonderful method” to teach economics, and a new breakthrough for teaching and learning of economics in the Maldives, indicating that they have been:

… asking them [students] to show their interest for many years, but only now they have shown their keenness towards this subject. It was a real progress, and a breakthrough in teaching and learning of economics in this country [POSTTI2].

Another two teachers observed the changed students’ behaviour in the classrooms, and outlined the positive effects of this new teaching method on their students’

motivation to learn economics.

With this learning method [cooperative learning] I see lot of student involvement in teaching and learning. They are motivated and actively involved in discussions … students help each other and their motivation towards learning is much better now [POSTTI3].

… they [students] are performing better now, and they are doing the activities now and they are very keen and interested in take part in the group activities based on this cooperative learning [POSTTI9].

In addition, another teacher believed that cooperative learning contributed to a more positive learning environment for their students and as a result students’

interest in the subject would be higher under cooperative learning.

… I believe … it [cooperative learning] will make the lesson interesting and will create a more positive learning environment [POSTTI8].

Likewise, students also conveyed their interest in cooperative learning because it provided them with opportunities to discuss the learning issues in groups. It also facilitated an environment where they can help each other and make their own decisions. Thus, they believed this new method of teaching increased their motivation to learn economics and changed their perception about the learning of economics. The following two comments are representative of eight out of the nine students:

This is what we want. Many of my friends have shown their interest in the subject. We want to take part in the activities. In the past most of us feel sleepy during the lesson because our Miss talks all the time [POSTSI2].

We are very motivated to learn because we can exchange our ideas and also we get more time to think about the issues before making a decision [POSTSI5].

Finally, the above evidence supports my own classroom observations after the intervention in which we have observed students’ interest and motivation in the learning of economics. On many occasions during the above observations students were generally keen in discussions, sharing ideas between them and between teachers and studying activities. One of the observation notes indicates that:

… students were very well motivated to complete the activities allocated for them in groups [POSTTO2].

5.3.2 Student Involvement