Teachers spend years of hard work and thousands of dollars to become experts in their content areas, with degrees and teaching certification to prove it. We develop curriculum maps and teaching calendars to be sure to cover the appropriate standards. And students are still failing.
The problem is that many students are not motivated to learn. Even with the perfect lesson plan in place, an unmotivated student will not learn. A great teacher recognizes that student motivation is necessary for success in learning and that teachers are in the perfect position to improve student motivation. Here are some strategies that can be used in the classroom to help motivate students:
1. Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset.
In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck argues that students have an underlying belief about learning: either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset belief suggests that people are born with or without certain abilities and talents, and that abilities cannot be changed. Fixed mindset learners try to prove themselves and will often shy away from challenges because they do not want to appear to be struggling. A growth mindset learner, on the other hand, believes that abilities and talents can be cultivated and improved through hard work. Growth mindset students enjoy a challenge and see struggles and failures as necessary parts of growth. Learners with a growth mindset are certainly more motivated to work hard.
2. Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students.
If we are going to truly inspire and motivate all of our students, we should know each of them on a personal level. We need to know their interests and hobbies, who they hang out with, their family situations, and what gets them excited. Each student is going to require different motivational strategies, and we have to know them to be able to predict what strategies might work.
3. Grow a community of learners in your classroom.
Students need a classroom environment that is safe, where they are willing to take risks and struggle. To achieve this goal, the students and teacher must work together towards common collective goals. Students must be willing to work with and assist other students in class. Struggle should be acceptable and encouraged as a part of the learning process.
4. Establish high expectations and establish clear goals.
Setting high expectations and supporting students as they struggle allows learners to rise to meet those expectations. When expectations are transparent, students know where their learning is headed and are motivated to get there because it seems possible: the path is visible. Working towards daily, weekly, and yearly goals gives students a purpose and a meaning for the hard work that they do.
5. Be inspirational.
Most adults can recall a specific teacher from their childhood who had a lasting impact. These are the teachers that have inspired, challenged, and motivated students enough to be memorable years later.
These are some strategies that can motivate students.