Human beings tend to be naturally curious animals who love to learn,
but that love of learning can actually decrease with extrinsic motivators that appear to manipulate that learning.
In short, we all like to control our own learning. The problem, of course, is that professors usually control the questions that are raised, and rightly so. But that leaves students with little sense of influence over their own education. The typical syllabus accentuates this problem, emphasizing “requirements” and “assignments” that the professor has devised. Not surprisingly, working under such a syllabus even many good students become strategic learners, learning to follow orders and do what is necessary to make the grade but avoiding deeper learning.
We can begin to reconstruct the environment in which our students learn with a syllabus that makes promises rather than demands and invites students to a deliciously provocative intellectual or artistic feast.