“If a student is unmotivated, you might as well not even teach them, because dead cats aren’t good learners.”-Probably Mark Twain
Diagnosing a student’s motivation can be difficult, and yet any teacher will tell you without an understanding of what motivates the student to learn, it can be a bit like running the Daytona on bald tires. It’s even more important to probe for clues in an online setting where you don’t have as much access to non-verbal cues like body language, for instance. On the screen, you go with what you’ve got: the volume, intonation, facial expression, and response time. Obtaining that info is a difficult balancing act, though, as you don’t want to be too aggressive and invade the student’s space (particularly when they’re likely in their safe space in an online session), but you also don’t want to be in the dark about what’s making them tick.
However, walking that line is the key. I won’t really start the session unless I’ve exhausted all possible routes to connecting with a student first. If you’re getting one word answers to your questions or none at all, that’s a signal what you’re doing isn’t really working. If they’re opening up to you with longer answers, smiling and laughing, then you’re good to talk about Kurt Vonnegut or the Pythagorean Theorem.
Good luck all and stay safe!