Use These 4 Time-Tested Tips to Motivate Your Students

One of the pitfalls when it comes to motivating students is that teachers get themselves too fixated on curriculum. Teachers are afraid that when students fall behind the set curriculum, it will be reflected on external examinations. However, you need to encourage your students to be energetic and to find learning experiences interesting, satisfying and sometimes challenging. Your goal as the teacher is to prepare students for their later lives, educate and guide them for further learning and fulfillment.

The challenge for teachers to make the classroom learning interesting and fit the curriculum has always existed.  Even from over a century ago, the reform movement to engage students in school learning was a big goal for teachers and education philosopher John Dewey was a frontier in this topic. John Dewey promoted the idea that school learning should relate to skills and knowledge that will be useful for life outside of school, advocating that students would have a better learning experience by relating the two different worlds, and this in turn, motivates further learning. Dewey believed that a classroom of passive students, with the teacher simply feeding the knowledge was ineffective, and that a mutual effort was necessary for an optimal learning experience.  Education styles such as that mentioned above is a thing of the past, on the most part, and we refer to it as traditional education.

Dewey suggested that the prevention of classroom misbehavior, and the encouragement of student participation, had to have a link between a student’s classroom learning and current interests and experiences.  This suggestion does not mean that Dewey disregarded school curriculum in support of individual learning.  Here are four of his suggestions and examples, which are summed up as below:

  1. Students help teacher’s select specific reading assignments after they get a clear idea about the goals of the class.  Example: teachers want to teach students about creative writing and students choose to read recent bestseller instead of a classic book.
  2. Students should be able to decide on and work on topics that are of personal interest.  Example: students are learning about the cosmology, and where most other students choose to study the solar system, a student decides to do research on black holes.
  3. Teachers should be open about learning from students while bringing their own experience and interests to the class.  Example: students are learning about different cultures, and a student talks about how his ethnic family celebrates a certain holiday.
  4. Students should gain in-depth knowledge by participating in the world away from the classroom.  Example: students working on writing a letter to district officials.

As you can see, such classrooms will have much flexibility.  Although teachers should have plans to meet the goal for the whole class, there should be enough flexibility to facilitate individual students’ goals. This approach will facilitate student willingness to learn effectively. Students do not merely memorize, but gain the advantage of understanding and take the learned skills with them for the rest of their lives.

A note on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation

According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “motivation” is the act of giving motive, and “motive” is defined as “implies an emotion or desire operating on the will and causing it to act.”  Motivation can come from within (intrinsic), or outside (extrinsic), or both. Intrinsic motivation is something that is difficult to change, as it is a somewhat built-in part of an individual and traits are much harder to change than behaviors.  You will need to know how to stimulate students who rely on intrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation to learn is the key to an optimal learning environment.  External motivation occurs when students are absorbed in tasks, challenged and motivated by their own choices.

Remember that your job as a new teacher is not to make education entertaining for your students, but rather to motivate them to seek it out on their own. You want to guide them but to still allow them room to be inspired all on their own.

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