Motivating Learners

Motivating Learners: 5 Practical Tips

Posted on December 15, 2013. Filed under: Motivating Learners |


Whenever I meet with a group of young teachers their concerns turn to the lack of student motivation. I often hear that students lack motivation when it comes to learning. This problem is not unique to the K-12 world; it exists in at the college level as well. There are numerous reasons students may not be motivated, but here I have identified five reasons and some tips to help motivate your leaners.

1.   Work is too easy or difficult. We are most motivated to learn when the task before us is matched to our level of skill. Work that is too easy creates boredom, and work that is too hard tends to be frustrating.  TIP: Try to create learning experiences where students are working at the very edge of their abilities, and keep adjusting the level of difficulty as they improve.

2.  Students are tired of being told what they need to learn. Memorizing information is boring. Discovering the solution to a problem is invigorating. TIP: Try to present the material to be learned as a question that needs to be explored and one that may have several answers.

3.  Students do not understand why they are learning this material. Connecting abstract learning to concrete situations might just be the key to motivating your learners. TIP: Try using the case-study method that has proven to be effective for medical and law school students. Develop case studies that allow students to apply abstract theories and concepts to a real-world scenario, using these formulations to analyze and make sense of situations involving real people and real problems.

4.  Working quietly and passively.  Some students need activities that encourage them to be active, working day in and day out in a quiet and passive classroom will not motivate their learning. TIP: Put together a cooperative learning group, or have students find learning partners with whom they can share moments of discovery and confusion. If you did this once or twice a week, you may find this type of activity to motivate several different types of learners.

5.   Little or no interest or curiosity about the topic.  Not every student will be interested in every topic that you teach, but the fact is you need to teach those topics. TIP: Almost any subject is interesting once you assign the task of becoming a “mini expert” on one small aspect of the material they have to learn—then extend their new expertise outward by exploring how the piece they know so well connects to all the other pieces they need to know about.

I hope you will give some of these TIPS a try. I will be implementing several tips in my own classes this semester and will let you know in my May or June post if these tips were successful.

Perhaps you have been successful in motivating your learners. I would love for you to share your tips by leaving a comment or two. By the way I would also love to hear what has not worked. I am looking forward to your comments.

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