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Getting Students to Commit to Learning

by Joe A. Martin, Jr., Ed.D.

I think one of the most tragic things to witness as a teacher is to see a student spend several years in school, only to “scratch” the surface of his or her potential.

Every year, millions of students are graduating with a diplomas, but not receiving an education. It’s also been reported in numerous studies that the average student only reads one book after college over the span of a lifetime. This is truly tragic.

One of the best things you can do for students is to turn them on to learning (as early as possible). In fact, you can’t afford to miss an opportunity to let your students know that learning is a lifelong process that should only stop when they do.




Unfortunately, education is having just the opposite effect on students. When students graduate, it’s common to hear, “I’m done with this education thing. I’ll never pick up another book as long as I live.” In a sense, they’re writing their own professional death certificate.

One way to reinforce the message of lifelong learning is through guest speakers who have successfully established themselves in their careers. Invite them to come to your class, and have them mention the importance of improving one’s self through learning and professional growth. If repetition is the mother of skill, students who constantly and consistently hear the message about learning outside of the classroom will eventually get the point while they’re in the classroom.

Another way to reinforce the importance of independent, lifelong learning is to do class discussions on successful people. As we know, success does not encompass a common gender, nationality, religion, ethnic group, age, or height, but there are some glaring similarities. Make sure you point out to your students the importance of lifelong learning as it relates to these individuals. Talk about it openly in class.

When I was a college student, chasing my “dream job,” I asked a young, highly successful corporate executive, how did he become so successful at such a young age. He responded by asking me a series of questions:

* Within the past year, how many books outside of school have you read?

* Within the past year, how many seminars/workshops have you attended (outside of class) to improve yourself?

* Within the past year, how many successful people in your field have you interviewed to discover their strategies for success?

After a long silence, I responded, “none” to each question. He proceeded to tell me that if I didn’t change the answer to those questions before I graduated from college, I would never achieve the success that he had. He continued, “However, if you do change those answers, you will significantly change the course of your life.” He was absolutely right.

Ever since my encounter with that young stranger, not only have I changed those answers, I now pose the same questions to all of my students (every semester). Don’t let students pass through your class without convincing them of the power of lifelong learning; it’s an investment in their future.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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