An Intelligent Heart and an “Edupreneur” Mentality
Employers who are student-oriented and have positive expectations of students make a big difference in motivating students and ultimately improving retention rates. Educators get much of the blame for student retention and motivation problems because they have the most exposure to students. Educators need to have a solid knowledge base about their subject, but they also need to have an intelligent heart to reach and motivate students. The same holds true for other staff members. Most employees want to focus on their job and may not think about being a student-oriented or customer-oriented organization. It is a challenge that arises because a school serves as an educational institution and a business. How can a school serve both its educational and business interests? I advocate becoming an “Edupreneur” – half education, half entrepreneur. Sometimes the administrative side does not understand or appreciate the educator side and vice versa, so I coined the term Edupreneur Spirit to help them understand that the school is also a business.
The Pacific Institute’s Success Strategies for Effective Colleges Schools process uses teaching, video, audio and written material to get people to examine their attitudes through user-friendly questions that help them reflect on situations from a student’s perspective. The process is about building a cognitive skill that faculty and staff can lock on to as they seek to motivate students, just as they would lock on to their professional skills to teach technical concepts. By presenting scenarios they can relate to in the classroom, instructors often say, “You know, I never thought of it that way.” They exercises shed light on personal challenges the students may be experiencing and frequently prompt instructors to take a look at this other side.
Attention Equals Retention
Research has shown that paying exceptional attention to students over a period of time results in improved student motivation and retention. It’s like an equation: Attention = Retention. Spend three months focusing on 30 students and every day asking them how they’re doing, smiling at them and paying extraordinary attention to them. You will see major improvement in motivation and retention. This effect multiplies when faculty and staff team up with the method. There’s a sort of law of synergy that comes into effect. If I can get 10 out of 20 employees to say, “This really makes a lot of sense,” it’s amazing how you begin to see it reflected in student motivation, and retention rates improve dramatically.
Using Vision to Touch the Heart
Many students have never experienced success and lack the vision to succeed. Motivation and persistence research finds that people who persist have a very sensory-rich vision in their mind. Properly trained staff can discern this vision and use it to motivate a student. You save one student from dropping out here, another one there, and soon your retention has improved 10 percent.One woman, who worked at a school where I was conducting this training, said she thought about dropping out at least 42 times but didn’t because of her three-year-old son, Quentin. The school was able to use Quentin as the vision for motivating her to persist. Some students drop out because their vision isn’t strong enough to take them through rough spots. The vision of a new car, for example might not be sufficient. Others drop out because the classes aren’t what they expected. For example, a student sees an ad and the admission rep knows what to do. When the student gets in class, if the educator doesn’t understand the ad and the conversation that motivated enrollment, they unravel the student’s vision.
A student is usually looking fora lifestyle change and has a picture in mind of a better life for an important someone, like Quentin. While some staff think it’s the course or accreditation that motivates a student, usually the student could not can care less about that. The student has a vision in mind, and the more the employees know about the vision, the more they can help the student achieve it. When Quentin’s mom wanted to drop out, staff would ask her about Quentin. That’s the heart button and that motivated her to persist.