Table of Contents Hide
- Why is Student Motivation Important?
- Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
- 20+ Strategies to Motivate Students
- 10 Tips for Implementing Motivation Strategies
- Frequently Asked Questions on Motivating Students
- How can you tell if students are motivated or unmotivated?
- What if only a small number of students are unmotivated?
- What are quick “spot motivators” to reengage an unmotivated classroom?
- How can you help students see value in subjects they aren’t interested in?
- What if a student complains work is “boring” or “too hard”?
- How can you motivate students without bribing them or overusing extrinsic rewards?
- What are go-to strategies if you feel your teaching style has become unmotivating?
There are different strategies for motivating students thanks to the advancement in learning. Motivating students can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of teaching. Unmotivated students can present difficulties in engaging them, getting work completed, and supporting their learning. However, the right strategies and techniques can make a big difference in sparking student motivation.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore 20+ actionable strategies to motivate students in the classroom, structured around intrinsic and extrinsic motivation techniques. We’ll also answer common questions about motivating students and provide examples and tips to implement these strategies effectively.
Why is Student Motivation Important?
Before diving into specific techniques, it’s helpful to understand why student motivation matters:
- Enhances learning & academic performance: Motivated students are more engaged in lessons, put forth greater effort, and perform better academically.
- Supports classroom management: Motivated students are more likely to follow classroom rules and procedures, minimizing disruptive behaviors.
- Fosters enjoyment of learning: Students are more likely to enjoy learning when they feel motivated to participate and succeed.
- Builds student confidence: Motivated students gain confidence in their abilities as they experience academic success.
- Reduces dropout rates: Lack of motivation is a key factor in students dropping out of school. Motivation helps keep students engaged in their education.
- Prepares students for life: Motivation drives people to achieve goals beyond the classroom. Cultivating this in students will benefit their lifelong learning and success.
Simply put, motivated students have better educational outcomes and experiences. That’s why employing motivation strategies should be a priority for every teacher.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
There are two main categories of motivation:
Comes from within the student. This includes factors like interest, curiosity, and desire for learning. Strategies that build intrinsic motivation focus on helping students find meaning and enjoyment in their work.
Comes from external factors and rewards. This can include things like praise, grades, prizes, and consequences. Extrinsic motivators encourage students to complete work to receive a reward or avoid negative consequences.
Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are effective in the classroom when used properly. The key is utilizing both types of strategies together to reinforce student motivation. We’ll look closely at techniques for each below.
20+ Strategies to Motivate Students
Here are over 20 research-backed strategies and techniques to motivate students in the classroom:
Intrinsic Motivation Strategies
- Connect lessons to student interests: Get to know students’ unique interests/passions. Incorporate these interests into lessons and allow students to research or present on topics they’re intrinsically curious about.
- Build relevance: Help students understand how classroom content and skills apply to real life outside of school. Make clear connections to future career aspirations or meaningful skills.
- Foster student choice & autonomy: Allow students input over assignments, project topics, due dates, seating arrangements, or classroom rules/procedures when possible. Choice fuels intrinsic motivation.
- Promote a growth mindset: Praise students for effort and perseverance more than intelligence/talent. Convey that abilities can be developed through practice and hard work to motivate learning over avoiding failure.
- Make learning active: Utilize active learning strategies like group work, discussions, hands-on activities, labs, educational games/simulations. Active learning engages students intrinsically over passive listening.
- Add novelty & variety: Introduce new content, activities, technology, media, or field trips to break up routine and spark interest. Variety stimulates the brain’s reward center.
- Enable creativity: Structure assignments so students can be creative in presentations, problem-solving, and demonstrating skills/knowledge. The creative process itself often motivates.
- Inspire curiosity: Pose interesting questions, introduce thought-provoking ideas, use cliffhangers, share fascinating facts/anecdotes, assign research topics students are eager to learn more about. A curious mind is a motivated mind.
- Make learning fun: Incorporate friendly competition, games, humor, and light-hearted interactions into learning activities. Students are more motivated when enjoying themselves while learning.
- Encourage collaboration: Use group/partner work, peer teaching, and class discussions instead of isolating students. Collaboration with classmates intrinsically engages.
Extrinsic Motivation Strategies
- Use praise & positive reinforcement: Recognize student accomplishments & effort. Be specific with praise so students know what behaviors to continue (“Great job following directions the first time!”).
- Give rewards & privileges: Offer individual or class rewards like stickers, extra recess, lunch with the teacher, fun activity days, etc. as incentives students can earn for motivation and good behavior.
- Display student work: Post student work, projects, writing, art, and accomplishments on bulletin boards, newsletters, and websites. Public recognition motivates.
- Send positive notes: Send brief positive notes home detailing student’s admirable academic or social behaviors. Parent recognition helps motivate.
- Offer extra credit: Allow opportunities to earn extra credit through additional work or activities to motivate students to enhance their grades. Make sure these benefit learning.
- Set goals: Have students set individual goals for assignments, behavior, test scores, semester grades, etc. Support them in achieving these goals and celebrate when reached.
- Give feedback & progress reports: Provide specific, constructive feedback and regular updates on progress. This enables students to improve and fuels motivation through progress.
- Create student contracts: Have students sign contracts committing to behavioral or academic goals. Involve them in creating terms and give copies as accountability.
- Have classroom jobs: Assign classroom jobs or roles that come with privileges/trust, like leading activities, handing out papers, cleaning up, etc. Responsibility motivates.
- Establish consistent routines: Structure consistent class schedules, procedures for turning in work and classroom expectations. Predictability helps students focus on learning vs behavior.
- Be enthusiastic & engage: Show passion and enthusiasm for your content! When you’re excited to teach, it motivates students to learn. Use humor, energy and variety in teaching style.
10 Tips for Implementing Motivation Strategies
- Get to know your students – Learn strengths, interests, cultural backgrounds and learning styles to personalize motivation.
- Start the year strong – Establish motivating routines and climate from day one to set the tone for the year.
- Emphasize intrinsic over extrinsic – Rely more heavily on intrinsic motivators to build lifelong motivation. Use extrinsic as supplemental incentives.
- Make it manageable – Break larger tasks into smaller milestones. Small wins motivate incrementally versus becoming overwhelmed.
- Keep it positive – From feedback to reinforcement, maintain a positive and encouraging classroom culture.
- Foster peer motivation – Leverage peer collaboration and support to motivate. Students often work harder with classmates cheering them on.
- Address demotivation promptly – If you notice a slump in motivation, reengage students with new techniques. Don’t let it become an ongoing issue.
- Involve parents & mentors – Update parents/mentors on successes to encourage them to reinforce motivation at home.
- Motivate yourself – Your passion and enthusiasm sets the tone. Make sure you’re modeling a motivated mindset.
- Monitor & reflect – Continually reassess what motivational strategies are working. Adapt and improve over time.
Motivating students is essential for effective teaching and creating a high-achieving and rewarding classroom environment. While some students are naturally self-driven, teachers can implement targeted strategies to inspire all types of learners.
The key is using a multifaceted approach with research-backed techniques. When combined together, intrinsic and extrinsic motivators reinforce students’ passion and excitement for learning. Motivation takes continual monitoring and refinement, but pays off exponentially in student outcomes when done thoughtfully.
The strategies and advice in this guide equip teachers with actionable methods to engage students and nurture their highest potential. For more on the art and science of motivation, check out these additional educational resources:
- Classroom Management for Student Motivation
- Motivating Students in Math Class
- Encouraging Positive Student Engagement and Motivation
- Top 10 Ways to Motivate Students
- Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation in the Classroom
With thoughtful strategies, student motivation can shift from frustration to fulfillment for teachers and learners alike. What motivational techniques have you found most successful? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions on Motivating Students
Here are answers to some of the most common questions teachers have about motivating students:
How can you tell if students are motivated or unmotivated?
Signs of motivated students:
- Eager participation in lessons & activities
- Asking questions and contributing ideas
- Actively listening and staying on-task
- Putting forth strong effort on assignments
- Showing enthusiasm and interest in learning
Signs of unmotivated students:
- Minimal effort and participation
- Disinterest or withdrawal during lessons
- Avoiding or rushing through assignments
- Disruptive off-task behaviors
- Not listening to instructions
What if only a small number of students are unmotivated?
- Speak privately with them to understand why and build rapport
- Modify lessons to increase relevance to their interests/needs
- Seat them closer to positive peer role models
- Give added encouragement, feedback and one-on-one support
- Communicate with parents/mentors to align on motivation strategies
- Set up a student contract with incremental goals
- Pair them up with a motivational peer buddy or mentor
What are quick “spot motivators” to reengage an unmotivated classroom?
- Tell a humorous story or joke related to the topic
- Incorporate a relevant video, animation, or interesting prop
- Switch to a quick engaging activity like a game or hands-on demo
- Challenge students with a provocative question or thought experiment
- Offer a reward incentive like extra free time or points towards a class prize
- Take a quick brain break with an energizing stretch or exercise
How can you help students see value in subjects they aren’t interested in?
- Explain explicitly how the subject applies to jobs/skills they are interested in
- Incorporate examples, applications, and topics relevant to their lives
- Allow projects and self-directed learning aligned with their interests
- Share inspirational examples of others succeeding in the field
- Convey your own passion for the subject and why you value it
What if a student complains work is “boring” or “too hard”?
- Empathize with their perspective and experience
- Find out more specifics on what is unmotivating about the task
- Offer choice in how they complete the task
- Break task into smaller milestones to make it feel more achievable
- Connect it to their personal interests or goals to build relevance
- Adjust difficulty level or scaffold instructions as needed
- Pair with peer for collaboration or support
- Develop a plan/contract with specific motivators to complete it
How can you motivate students without bribing them or overusing extrinsic rewards?
- Praise intrinsic behaviors like effort, perseverance, teamwork rather than achievement alone
- Use small rewards sparingly alongside intrinsic motivators, not as the sole incentive
- Limit rewards to motivating positive behaviors, not things students should do anyway simply for good citizenship
- Wean off of rewards over time as students build natural intrinsic motivation
- Enable students to earn rewards through merit like points or meeting goals, not just randomly
- Focus rewards on classwide collaboration vs individual competition
What are go-to strategies if you feel your teaching style has become unmotivating?
- Increase student collaboration through discussion, projects, peer teaching
- Incorporate more active learning activities and educational games
- Plan field trips, guest speakers, or make use of new technology
- Seek student feedback on lessons and teaching style through surveys or class discussion
- Vary your instructional pace and add in more visual/auditory elements
- Share an inspirational teaching experience to reconnect with your passion
- Observe master motivator teachers and reflect on their practices
- Attend teaching conferences or seminars for new techniques
- Ask a mentor to observe you teach and provide motivational coaching