Our Students' Manifest Destiny to Change the World

Posted by Paul Wilkinson on 1/12/2023

Welcome back. History is moving fast and we have a lot to catch up on. At the start of 2023, artificial intelligence gives us a pretty good idea of how we can learn more skills and build more knowledge more quickly. Combining our human intuition that motivation and incentives can both play big roles in learning, we asked ChatGPT this week:

In middle school, what are the best ways to motivate or help students motivate themselves?

Its answer:

Some strategies for motivating middle school students include:

  1. Setting clear and specific goals: Students are more motivated when they know what they are working towards and can see the progress they are making.
  2. Providing choice: Giving students some control over what they learn and how they learn it can increase their motivation and engagement.
  3. Building a sense of community: Creating a positive and supportive classroom environment can help students feel connected to their peers and teachers.
  4. Offering regular feedback: Providing students with regular feedback on their progress can help them understand their strengths and areas for improvement, which can increase their motivation to learn.
  5. Helping students see the relevance of what they are learning: When students can see how what they are learning applies to their lives or interests, they are more likely to be motivated to learn.
  6. Recognizing and rewarding effort and progress : Giving positive reinforcement and recognition can boost student motivation and encourage more effort.
  7. Encouraging growth mindset: Helps students understand that intelligence can be developed through effort, and it gives them ability to overcome challenges and build resilience.

It's important to keep in mind that motivation can be different for each student, and that's why a combination of different approaches may be necessary.

We shared this text with students as we completed a lesson in which small groups created skits representing each of seven participants in Manifest Destiny and asked them to consider, as they read ChatGPT’s response:

What's accurate about it? What seems wrong? As we work on our Constitution of Learning this semester to give effect to our Declaration of Learning Independence, how can we create structural incentives in our Constitution to improve motivation?

One nice thing about Social Studies is that it is intended to give you the skills and knowledge to help you build on all human progress up until now. Take this week's Manifest Destiny skit assignment, for example. You had three specific goals: Create a skit in which you (1) portrayed your group's identity, (2) showed your group's reasoning for moving west, and (3) enabled your classmates and yourself to take notes on these factors to improve your understanding of both U.S. history and of how various groups today continue to have different backgrounds and motivations. Were the goals clear and specific? Did you have choice as to how you might portray those groups? Did working together with classmates help build community and connection? Did you get enough feedback on your progress? Do you realize how understanding these various interests might apply to your own life or interests? Did you get enough positive feedback for effort? For progress? Do you understand that intelligence is developed through effort and that productive struggle gives you the "ability to overcome challenges and build resilience?"

What good ideas did ChatGPT leave out of its answer that we might include in our Constitution of Learning? As we become more independent learners, how much can a constitution help us succeed? How much is character, such as the character that George Washington drew upon to create precedents for our federal government, necessary to make our Constitution of Learning effective? Do rules resolve every conflict? How do we set those rules? How do we influence ourselves, our peers, those who look to us, and those who work to shape our behaviors in ways that make their lives and our life better? Please reply with your most valuable thoughts and ideas.

There’s not a deadline in place to answer these questions on Teams. They are complex and we can return to them throughout the second semester. One thing, however, is certain: Human reading and writing skills are essential to succeed in a world in which computers are increasingly taking on more menial tasks. We will refocus on those on Friday as students take a pre-assessment designed to help us target areas for growth toward being able to analyze, evaluate, and assess economic, political, and social policy. Mrs. Evans and I will be leading every Marce Herz 7th-grader through a series of lessons on purposefully organizing and elaborating on evidence to help us understand, explain, and judge key ideas in history, how they continue to affect us today, and how our 7th-graders might use these understandings to become empowered to change their own future and their future world.

Need help with schoolwork? Check out Paper, WCSD’s free 24/7 tutoring service. Be sure to send your tutor detailed instructions from the teacher to get the best feedback.

Interested in what we're doing in class this quarter? Check out Units 4, 5, and 6 in our Scope and Sequence.