One thing that would be good, especially in a required course, is if the students saw why they needed to be in your class. I try to tell them that the class will help them write throughout their college career. I give them a true story of a man who lost over a million dollars ($1,000,000,000) because he didn’t write well so he did not receive a promotion. But I have been given another great idea that I am going to use next time I start class.
This is from Lyubov, a coworker from Russia:
I did this for the first time in my physics class. I told them to get out a note card and write on the top of it their dream.
I give them 4 minutes for this. After they got puzzled I told them that whatever it is, they will have it as long as they will keep the note card in front of their eyes and tell everybody about it. It have to be something what they really really want.
Then the next step is that instead of thinking which way they will have to go to get that dream, they have to think that they already have it. If it is dream to became a doctor, then the student has to imagine that he is a doctor. I explained to students that it will be really helpful for them and why.
Next step: I asked them if physics is a required step on the way to reach their dream and for most of them it was. I told them that it does not matter then if they like physics or not; they have to start getting into it because it is something they have to do to go their way.
My students often come to physics class with the idea that it will be the most boring and hardest class of all.
Next I told them that we do in our life different things that we do not like to do but have to do anyway.
Instead of trying to do stuff that you don’t like, you have to find something about it that you will like. You will do it with pleasure then.
I told them that i do not like to wash the floor and clean the house. I found something that I like about it and every time I do it with the pleasure. I am thinking how everybody will be happy in a clean and spotless house.
I think this was really helpful for my students this fall. Usually it is near 60-70% of the students who do not like physics. This time I started with 1 person out of 25 who actually said that he liked it. Now I have 18 people who are working really hard.