Motivate Students with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Motivate Students with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

Help your students unlock their purpose, and they will be motivated to learn the entire semester!

Especially in an online environment, you can more easily engage students by tapping into their intrinsic motivation. In other words, learn how to leverage students’ internal drivers and your class sessions will buzz with energy. There is nothing more internally motivating than pursuing one’s purpose. Where students’ interests intersect with their skills represents their passion. When students combine their passion with the impact they want to have on the world, that becomes their purpose. Do this at the beginning of class, and then make every interaction with your students meaningful by tying everything back to their purpose. Pilot Your Purpose Exercise For instance, let’s say a student loves playing video games (their interest). They enjoy learning about and getting better at playing video games, and also writing and performing slam poetry (their skills). That leads the student to imagine streaming their preferred video game while performing slam poetry about competitors (their passion). How could this student create an impact?

  • They could create educational video games.
  • They could create video games to help people empathize with people of other races and socioeconomic status.
  • They could raise money through being a Twitch streamer to support causes in their local community.

This purpose becomes the thread that weaves throughout your course. When they practice customer interviewing, or forecasting financial needs, or prototyping, you can link those lessons back to applying those skills to build an educational game company, or whatever they identify their purpose is. And your students stay motivated.

Your students’ purpose is the perfect hook to keep them engaged the entire semester!

Step 1: Interests

To identify their interests, students think about:

  1. What friends say they always talk about
  2. What they would spend time doing if money was no object
  3. What they were learning about the last time they lost track of time watching Youtube or scrolling on social media

Our example student talks to their friends, who say they are always talking about FPS video games (particularly Call of Duty (COD)), skateboarding, and slam poetry. They think about what they would do if money was no object, and they land on playing FPS video games and skydiving (they have never been skydiving, but loves watching videos of skydiving and dreams of going one day to experience the adrenaline rush). Last, they think back to the last time they lost a couple of hours staring at their phone, and it was watching others stream COD on Twitch. Our student now has their interests mapped out, according to what their friends say, what they dream about, and what holds their attention.

Pilot Your Purpose: InterestsStep 2: Skills

To identify their skills, students think about:

  1. What friends say they are good at
  2. What they would like to get better at doing
  3. What they think they are above average at doing

Our example student again talks to their friends, who say they are good at teaching them how to play FPS video games, and at making them laugh. They think about things they do that they would like to be better at. They really love writing and performing slam poetry, but knows from their performances and comparing themself to other performers that they have a lot of room to improve. They also want to get better at playing Call of Duty. Last, they think hard about what they are really good at, and land on playing FPS video games, at mathematics (Calculus, at least), at Adobe Illustrator, and at slam poetry. Our student now has their skills mapped out, according to what their friends say, what skills they want to improve, and what they are already good at.

Pilot Your Purpose: Skills

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The Pilot Your Purpose exercise is a great way to keep your students motivated all semester. You can meet with your students individually after completing this exercise & have them share their purpose so you understand what makes them tick. As you move into each module of your course, you can reference a particular student’s purpose to talk about why the particular module is relevant. For instance, when you introduce a financial module, you might reference our example student and (assuming they are a game designer) how they need to hire a project manager, programmers, 3D artist, and quality assurance specialists to complement their team, pay for servers, legal fees to protect their IP, a 3D engine license, and potentially rent for space for the team to create. As you begin each module, students will stay motivated as they see the direct application of the particular material to their purpose!

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3 thoughts on “Motivate Students with the Pilot Your Purpose Exercise

  1. Has anyone tried out this exercise with timings? About how long do you think this would take? Also, do you think it would work with a large class (120+ students)?

    1. Hi Anna, I’d love to hear other people’s experiences, but I’ll say from our perspective, this lesson typically takes 45 – 50 minutes.

      As long as all students have access to the worksheets, large classes work just fine. We’ve had instructors with 120+ students use it including an instructor with 350+ students.

      All the best,

      1. Thanks so much, Justin! That’s really helpful to know. Excited to try this exercise out with my students here in the UK!

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