How to Motivate Students

Introduction

The challenge for any classroom teacher is to not just motivate any student, but to motivate the students that are in danger of failing. The advice on this page is focused on those students.

If you believe, you can achieve

Let us first assume that a student will be impossible to motivate if that student does not believe that he will be successful. This expectation of failure is most prevalent in middle school and high school math intervention classes. If you are unable to get these students to buy into your vision, you will have failed before the school year has hardly begun.

Why do these students expect to fail? Why have they given up?

Many students grow up thinking that intelligence is a fixed asset, that some people are smart and some people are dumb. A student that thinks of himself as dumb for life has little reason to care about yet another math class. However, the truth is, based on neuroscience, that the brain gets stronger with use, and therefore, you can become smarter if you try. Research by Carol Dweck shows that if you teach this "growth mindset" to students, their attitudes about learning can dramatically improve. We strongly feel that teaching the growth mindset may be one of the most useful things you could possibly teach in order to motivate students. Here are some reference articles on that approach:

Goal Setting - Written Goals

Assuming you have done some form of assessment with your students, you should know what each student needs to accomplish in order to make tangible progress. However, does the student know what to do next?

A very powerful psychological technique is to ask each student to write down a list of very specific, concrete goals, which may be based on the results of the student's most recent assessment. A good long term goal would be "I want to get an "A" in this class", and a good short term goal might be something like "I want to master my multiplication math facts by October 15."

The article below states that according to a study on goal-setting by Dominican University in California, "you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down."

The power of competition

One thing we have observed over the years is that teachers with the best test score increases tend to post something on a classroom wall that shows student progress. The data is often something easy to quantify, such as the number of points a student earned in MathScore. Because the data is publicly posted, the students inevitably look at the information, key in on a student they want to beat, and internally set a goal to beat that student. This is exactly the type of behavior you see with video games that have high score lists, which explains why it is often effective.

Timely praise helps

When your students accomplish something noteworthy, such as achieving a written goal, that is a great opportunity to praise that student for a job well done. Similarly, when using an educational product such as MathScore, when you notice that a student freshly mastered a math topic, especially one that took a lot of effort, you should let that student know that you noticed. This lets the student know that using that particularly educational product gets him noticed by the teacher, which will keep him motivated.

About Us | FAQ | Contact Us | Sales Opportunities | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy