I recently read the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman. A day later exiting my digital art class, I felt as though a door in my mind had been unlocked.
As an adjunct instructor at a junior college I have been struggling find that right balance between demanding too much and demanding too little. And racking my brain to find ways to motivate my sometimes unmotivated students.
The premise of Multipliers is that some leaders drain intelligence and capabilities from the people around them and others amplify it.
When I arrived to class I had no direct intention of implementing any of what I had learned recently learned, when a student who has been struggling asked a question. I gave him leading questions to allow him to solve his problem rather than answering the question directly.
So on to the next student who is quite capable but also quite lazy. He asked how to do something and I flat out told him, he should have known how to do this since the second week of class (we are in week 10). So without thinking I called over the struggling student and asked him to explain the technique, which he did perfectly. And he walked away with his often shaky confidence thoroughly unshaky. The lazy student sat up a little straighter after being shown, not by me but by a student with apparent capabilities below his own, how to do something. He went on in that class to produce his best work of the semester.
In a class critique of of student work I simply asked students what grade would they give themselves. If they declared they deserved an A, I asked if it was their best work. That exercise clarified the fact that that my expectations for what they were capable of was perhaps a little low. It also made them more accountable for their work and they seemed to change the way they saw the work. It was no longer simply an assignment in a class they “had to take” but now an example of what they were capable of, which they seemed to suddenly take ownership of.