With the move towards broad-based learning, more and more
students will need to read Cross Faculty Modules (CFM). In
academic year 2001/02, students will also read General Education
Modules (GEM) . The objective of this article is to explore
ways to motivate students who are reading CFM and GEM modules.
Experience has shown that motivating students who read CFM
and GEM modules may be different from motivating students
who major in the subject matter. In the latter case, students
need to know the subject matter because they are specialising
in it. In the former case, students continually ask themselves:
"Why should I learn this? How can this be of use to me?" Hence,
different tools may be needed to motivate them.
To produce the list of motivators, the methodology employed
was to ask the students who read EM2201: Introduction to Construction
Economics as a CFM what motivated or demotivated them. 21
non-Building students from Arts and Social Sciences, Business
Administration, Engineering, Law, Real Estate, and Science
registered for this module in Semester 1 of Academic Year
2000/01. An email was sent to all of them, asking them whether
they were motivated, and what motivated them in the course
of reading the EM2201 module. They were assured that their
feedback was to help the lecturer improve, and would not be
taken against them, or to help them in the examination.
13 students responded to the email. Students pointed out
the things that were provided for in the module, which motivated
them. They also suggested some other things that should have
been provided to motivate them further. These motivators are
- Provide glossary list, pictures and models.
Since the students are not from the faculty that hosts the
module, there might be some difficulty in understanding
some of the key concepts. Students should be given a list
of technical terms at the first lecture to help them understand
the rest of the lectures. The lecturer should also spend
some time in the first lecture explaining technical terms
that would be commonly used in the lecture.
Students also suggested that visual aids such as pictures,
photographs, models and video recordings might be used to
help them understand and visualise what is to be learnt.
- Explain relevance of each lecture. In professional
courses, the relevance of each lecture delivered in an essential
module may be straightforward; students need to know the
subject matter in order to become a competent professional.
For CFM and GEM modules, in each lecture, the lecturer would
have to spend some time explaining how that specific lecture
may be of use to CFM students. Once students understand
why the knowledge is useful to them (besides meeting graduation
requirements), they would be more motivated. One respondent
said: "You motivated me to study because you enable me to
see the relevance of this course in my life."
- Give many examples. Students feel that examples
such as stories derived from practical experience make it
easier for them to understand the subject matter. Examples
and stories are also important because they leave a deeper
impression in students. These students can then internalise
the issues that they learn. While giving examples may already
be the norm when delivering any lecture, CFM students need
many more examples to sustain their interest and to enable
them to grasp issues that are not within their area of specialisation.
- Give the big picture. Students studying
a module as a CFM prefer to know the general or macro issues,
without going into the nitty-gritty. This is expected as
these students are not specialising or majoring in the subject
- Require students to present tutorial answers formally.
When students are required to formally present the answers
to tutorial questions in class, they would be motivated
to read up about the topic. This gives them a better understanding
of the tutorial questions and improves the quality of their
presentation as well. They would not want to 'lose face'
by presenting an ill-prepared answer to their classmates.
- Mount modules with higher Modular Credits (MC).
Students, being practical as they are, are motivated to
read modules with higher MC, so that they can fulfil graduation
requirements with the least number of modules/examinations.
If a high subscription rate is the aim, modules which now
have only 3 MC should be upgraded.
- Give the module an interesting title. Students
said that they may not be motivated to sign up for a module
which has an uninteresting name, as it gives them the impression
that the module will be dry and boring. Therefore, besides
concentrating on the substance, the form should not be overlooked.
Sometimes, being in the centre of the action, it is not
easy for the lecturer himself or herself to know that the
module title is boring. An example is "Introduction to Construction
Economics", which sounds appropriate to staff in the Department
of Building, but may sound very boring to students who major
in English Literature. One respondent said: "I thought initially
that the course would be dry and boring as the title suggested
Several methods to motivate students who read CFM and GEM
modules have been identified above. The three most important
things that the lecturer should bear in mind when teaching
these students is to take extra time and effort to explain
technical terms, tell the students how the knowledge may be
of use to them, and give more examples in the lectures to
help students to enjoy the module.
The feedback from students who read EM2201 in Semester
1 of Academic Year 2000/01 is acknowledged with thanks. Special
thanks to Pui Chin Loon, Eugene Wong, Huiyi, Tan Hwa Ling,
Jennifer Tay, Jerry Ting, John Low, Jonathan Tay, Laurinda
Wee, Wong Pui Yee, Koh Seah Poh, William Teo, and Lee Yen
Li, who took the time and trouble to give written feedback.