The Challenge of Motivation!


This is another shot from the Ninomaru Garden. The sun sets so much earlier here! For example, for today, August 17th, the sun sets at 6:29pm.

I would like to talk about a very complex topic, that of motivation. As teachers, we are constantly challenged with how to motivate our students. Here we go! 

I just purchased the Kindle version of a very insightful resource, Meeting Students Where They Live, by Richard Curwin. Some information from that book is included below.


  1. Give students choices. 
    1. Students will oftentimes be more motivated when they are given a choice.
  2. Give the students some degree of control.
    1. I remember reading that one of the best ways to help a student deal with anxiety is to give the student as much control as possible.
    2. If possible, get input from the students with regards to the topic, the teaching approach, activities, and assessments. 
  3. Many of us are motivated by the opportunity to complete a task successfully. 
    1. In addition, that success leads to more self-confidence, which then leads to more motivation, at least as it relates to that kind of task.  
  4. Make sure that the work is at the appropriate level for the student
    1. We are typically more motivated when the task is at a challenging but realistic level. 
  5. Try to make the work engaging and relevant to the students.
    1. Is there a strong correlation between the work and the daily lives of the students?
    2. Are the students interested in the topic?
  6. Build a positive relationship
    1. People tend to be more motivated when they are doing something for someone with whom they have a positive and nurturing relationship.
    2. Many of us are motivated by doing something for someone we care about.
    3. We can be motivated by the positive reinforcement from others.
  7.  Pay attention to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
    1. In other words, realize that students need food, sleep, shelter, and other basic needs before they can be very motivated to put in effort at school.
    2. Students also need to feel safe and supported in order for them to put in much effort at school.
  8. Pay attention to effort
    1. Many of us are more motivated when the focus is on our effort and not on the result.
  9. When assessing, focus on effort and growth rather than just the score.
    1. How much improvement has the student made?
    2. Has the student put in a good effort?
  10. Consider using a contract.
    1. Putting goals on paper can help clarify the process and the agreements. 
    2. Having the student and others sign the agreement is a form of consensus. 
  11. Consider using rewards
    1. It is ideal to get student input on this. 
    2. Try to focus on rewarding the effort and growth as opposed to just rewarding the result. 
  12. Grades
    1. Getting good grades is motivating for some students.
    2. For students who have had a history of poor grades, it may be better to focus on growth and effort and de-emphasize the use of grades.
  13. Preparing for the future can be motivating
    1. For some students, preparing for college or for a good job or for a certain level of income can be motivating. 
    2. Setting realistic goals can be motivating as a person may really want to work hard to achieve those goals.
  14. Avoidance of negative consequences may be motivating for some.
    1. For example, if a student finishes their homework, they do not have to do the dishes that night.
  15. Punishment may not be very effective.
    1. In many cases, using threats and punishment are not very effective.
    2. However, for some students, telling them they will not graduate from high school if they do not pass a given class may be effective.


  1. Bob - much if this resonates with my years as a teacher! Right on!


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