Engagement and Motivation: A Guide Written by a Dummie

After a lecture focussed on the use of fieldwork in the teaching of Social Studies I began thinking about the lessons I have taught in previous placements and how they could be improved. The Social Studies Principles and Practices document (Education Scotland n.d) states that skills such as exploring, investigating, discussing and presenting are a key focus in the experiences and outcomes within the Social Studies organisers. I began to ask: how could I have taught these lessons in a way that could have been more active and engaging and promote the skills noted in the Education documents? Although what was going through my head may have been difficult for a fresh faced first year student, I have some ideas that can potentially be used in future.


As a pupil, drama was the subject the class loved. We had a drama teacher take us for an hour every now and again, other than that drama was not a subject that had much attention from my teachers. As a student teacher I have witnessed the attitudes teachers have towards the subject. It is a nuisance in terms of class behaviour and time constraints, and completing a lesson is a tick in a box.

Smith and Herring (1993), states that it is commonly known that learning is an active event, and so allowing children to live through their learning and place themselves within contexts makes learning relevant to the child. Drama allows children to learn through social interaction with their peers, which is a key point in Vygotsky’s learning theory. The use of drama in learning can boost pupil motivation, but also allow for effective learning. I have fond memories of drama lessons from my time in primary school. Reflecting as a student teacher I can see how knowledge from the classroom was taught in a different, more engaging way. Seeing a class getting excited at the thought of a drama lesson is a common sight, so it makes sense to utilise that excitement to promote effective learning, doesn’t it?

Within this module also I have witnessed how a teacher used drama to take on the persona of “Wolfgang” and deliver World War 2 based lessons using a storyline approach. The class would question “Wolfgang” about his experiences as a soldier, and as result could show a clear understanding of the topic. Personally I think that in subjects such as history, where the learning may seem distant and irrelevant to the pupils; providing emotion and allowing the children to feel connected to the subject will prove highly effective to develop deeper understanding. (Please see YouTube link in the references)

Outdoor Fieldwork

Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), write about the how the use of field work can be an effective tool for a pupil’s learning. They speak about the child’s natural curiosity natural affinity for exploration. Their description made me think about something I was told by my dad growing up. When cutting into steak at the dinner table, never cut against the grain as it is much harder and leaves messy torn chunks. When teaching children, should we go against their natural instincts and confine them to the classroom or let them feed their curiosity? I know I would have preferred the latter as a pupil. Outdoor field work is not only fun and exciting for the pupil, Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), suggest that it can also contribute to the development of the whole child. They say that in terms of classroom learning, working outdoors can make learning experiences more vivid and interesting for pupils, they will remember the links they have made during exploration to their subject knowledge. They continue stating that the danger of classroom based learning is that it may fail to engage due to the focus on memorisation and neat presentation. I agree that it is a danger however, I think that education has or is still moving past this traditional style of teaching and so is becoming less of a problem and will continue to do so as new teachers qualify.

Looking at the whole child, outdoor learning through investigation and exploration can help the child develop a vast array of skills, be it: emotional, physical or social (Pickford et al. 2013). I feel that furthermore, learning outdoors will see an increase in the rough and tumble experiences that many feel are lacking in the “cotton wool kid’s” lives at present. I think that if children have more experiences of falling about when playing and getting muddy they will develop educated emotional responses to moments of disappointment or fright, this may be lacking in children currently. These statements however, are personal speculation based on experiences from previous placements and discussions.

Overall I think that creating more engaging lessons requires teachers to use what is already in place, just more often. Drama and Outdoor learning are exciting for a reason, they can be highly effective learning contexts. I am aware that there can be time constraints implementing these lessons with both other subjects and planning however, the more we participate the more experienced we become. We will get better at coordinating these lessons the more we interact with them. We should strive to be better and provide the best learning for our future pupils.



Education Scotland. (No date). Curriculum for Excellence: Social Studies Principles and Practice [Online]. Available at: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/social-studies-pp.pdf (Accessed: 28/09/18)

Enquiry outside the Classroom in Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), Primary Humanities: Learning through Enquiry, London: SAGE

Wolfgang Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZtktAVR00A

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