How to Improve Motivation in Students
Motivation can be tough at all ages, but it is especially critical to maintain in our students.
Children and young adults are at the most formative ages for their academic and personal development, so it is incredibly important that they be as motivated for growth and success as they can be.
This isn’t always the case, though, as many students may be tired, unfocused or simply disinterested. This can cause lazy behaviors or failure to maintain productivity, issues that could deeply impact their future.
Since reigniting that motivation is one of the most important things you can do yet also one of the most challenging, here are a few places you can start!
- Organization and Goal Setting
Organized environments are critical for positive mental health and ability to focus.
If a student doesn’t have a positive and organized atmosphere, it could genuinely negatively impact their ability to maintain motivation since they will likely feel overwhelmed by everything before them.
Kelly Warfield, Editorial Director of Teacher Products, states:
Disorganized classrooms can take the focus away from learning. Furniture should be in good condition to help students remain comfortable and centered on their studies. Desks and chairs that are in disrepair can be distractingly uncomfortable, and a lack of seating, visibility, and comfort can pull student attention away from lessons.
Because of this, it’s important both help them maintain organization in their own spaces as well as to maintain the same good energy in other spaces you may be able to control.
Yes, their room and workspace should be neat and sorted, but so should the other areas of their home, school and other regularly used spaces.
After you’ve managed to instill an organized lifestyle, you can tackle goal setting.
Goal setting should be specific and clear, but not overly tedious or demanding. If it’s too vague, it will be harder to maintain motivation since the goal is not as clearly in sight.
If it’s too specific and challenging, the idea may be too daunting and easy to abandon.
Find the right balance by helping them organize goals in steps (such as getting a B instead of a C on their next test as opposed to a goal of scoring an A in the course overall) and celebrate the mini-goals that are achieved on the path towards the main goal.
Student-Tutor offers a great Slideshare that shows how to create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals while also taking value vs. effort into account.
As you encourage them to set goals for anything in their lives, whether it be related to their academics, learning a new song on an instrument, beating a level in a video game or really anything else, make sure they keep track of their progress and praise their efforts more than their results.
James Marshall Crotty from Forbes states in his article Motivation Matters: 40% of High School Students Chronically Disengaged From School:
Studies suggest that students are more academically motivated when one of four conditions is present: when they feel competent enough to complete the task at hand; when they see a direct link between their actions and an outcome and have some control over whether or how to undertake a task; when the task has interest or value to them; and when completing the task brings social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a group or approval from someone they care about.
No matter how smart or capable a student is, it is far more important that they are putting in substantial effort than bringing about satisfactory results.
If your student has a difficult time with math, for instance, it is more important to see that they are giving all of their effort by studying, practicing, asking questions and any other means that it is to see them receive an A on a test.
Contrastingly, if your student finds that math comes to them rather easily, it is important to note that even if they do receive high marks on all of their work, you should pay more attention to how much effort they are putting into developing their skills.
Results are not what is important in terms of your student or child’s motivation. All students are unique and have talents in different areas, making certain things come more easily to them than others. The best mark may not always correlate with the best effort, so it is critical to focus on their effort more.
- Using Online Games
No, really. It may seem counterintuitive since games have a connotation that implies distraction and basically the opposite of productivity, but many games also promote educational properties in the realms of things like math, science, typing, coding, spelling and more.
Additionally, the fun and engaging nature of games keeps kids interested and hooked, making it much easier for them to want to keep learning on their own.
By using games – particularly for difficult subjects like coding or STEM subjects – the student will hardly even feel like they are studying at all.
They get to explore new and exciting games beyond the boundaries of their usual choices and are also able to reinforce their knowledge through repetitive exposure to the information in an entertaining way.
Coding games also double as a motivational method to inspire kids to want to contribute their own ideas when they are learning to design and program games of their own. Teaching coding through games is a simple way to teach rigorous computer science concepts that otherwise can be tedious and frustrating.
If you are having a hard time figuring out what games to play, check out this great resource that shares some of the top coding games for kids!
These skills, such as loops, functions, arrays and more, are the same concepts used in building business and other consumer software applications. This makes coding games particularly useful for a variety of subjects.
David Dodge, CEO of CodaKid, states:
If we want to keep up with the pace of our global counterparts, we should be introducing visual block coding in early elementary school and should move into text-based coding with real languages and tools well before middle school.
Additional companies known for using coding games you could look into for the students in your life include:
● Scratch – a programming language known for being a great introduction to learning more advanced coding languages and computer programming concepts. Kids can use Scratch to design animations, stories, and games that can later be shared with others.
● CodaKid – an online coding school that teaches kids how to build video games, apps, websites and other awesome things at the professional level quality. These projects can be complex, but they are a great and satisfying challenge for students ready to tackle it. Plus, it includes game-based, self-paced online classes with live support, so there is guidance every step of the way.
● Blockly – an open source software designed for kids who are able to read but have no programming experience. It’s a great starting point for learning text-based coding languages and consists of blocks with lines of code for kids to drag and drop onto a screen. It’s perfect for seeing the results of the child’s efforts immediately, providing a satisfying reward right away.
● Code Combat – Perfect for kids who are already familiar with some fundamentals of coding and computer languages, this game involves the player using lines of code to move the character past challenges.
- Positive Influences and Exposure
With children and teenagers, influence is a major factor in most areas of their lives. A student’s motivational levels will often reflect the levels of the peers they spend the most time with, so it is important to notice the outside elements in a child’s motivational journey as well.
As a parent of a young child, this is much easier to control. It isn’t possible to choose your child’s ever interaction and friendship, but you can have some control over the environments they spend time in.
For instance, if your child is on an athletic team or a competitive academic team, they will likely spend a great deal of time around other peers also on those teams.
Getting your child involved in things like book clubs, robotics or other highly motivated activities at a young age can really help to spark positive influence in their life since they will have similarly motivated friends with an ambition in common.
Don’t force your child into activities they won’t enjoy just for the sake of the influence, however, because this would likely have an adverse effect that brings out their rebellious nature more than anything. Healthily pushing them in the direction of their interest through extra classes or activities will help give that positive influence.
If you are a teacher or a parent of an older child, however, it can be a little more difficult to keep on top of the influences any given student experiences.
The best way to do this is to simply introduce them to positive influences, whether it be teaching them about inspirational figures or being a positive influence yourself.
Having people to look up to is a good motivation for children of all ages, and while it may not have the same type of influence as direct friends and peers, it absolutely can impact a child’s work ethic when they have someone to look up to and model their behaviors after.
- Promoting a Self-Starting Environment
Particularly with teenage students, it can be hard to enforce rules and schedules that they may not already be motivated to do.
To an extent, there will be times where you will need to enforce these things anyway, such as with chores or assignments that need to be completed. Other times, though, it is sometimes better to let the student be the bosses of their own lives.
Being a self-starter is becoming increasingly more important in our present economy since we are moving more and more towards a freelance-oriented society. Technology and the internet are introducing disruptions in all industries and is leading to an increase in outsourcing and freelance.
Apps and websites like Upwork, Task Rabbit, Uber, and others are making it more common for people to be their own bosses, creating their own schedules and even setting their own rates in some instances. Between 2014 and 2017, 3.7 million more people started freelancing.
|Source: Business Wire|
Because of this, it’s important for students to have exposure to running their own lives. Whenever students genuinely believe they have more autonomy and a sense of control over their goals and situations, they exhibit much higher levels of motivation and self-starting behaviors.
There are ways to do this without simultaneously condoning irresponsible or undisciplined behavior. While a student may have assignments, chores and other responsibilities they need to be on top of, it is important to make sure they still feel in control of their ultimate choices.
You can do this by making sure they have autonomy over their goals. Help them to make the right goals that will lead to their success, but ultimately have them set their own milestones and make the decisions on what specific goals are being set (like the video game levels or academic achievements mentioned earlier).
You can also give them more freedom in the ways they can obtain their goals by allowing them to choose different ways to complete the same assignment, picking their own extracurriculars or perhaps implementing diverse extra credit options.
More than anything, in terms of autonomy and a self-starting student, is important that they have goals they care about and feel they have control over. This will drastically increase motivational levels pertaining to the specific goals as well as other areas of their life.
Those with an external locus of control believe that external forces, like luck or the schooling system, determine their outcomes. This lack of responsibility results in lower motivational levels and productivity.
Motivation will always be a struggle, and everyone is going to go through some periods that are harder than others.
That doesn’t mean it’s an impossible mountain to climb, though, even for students who have plenty of things happening at once that may make it hard to focus.
Make sure to incorporate these tips for the students in your life to help them reach their goals and be the best they can be!
- Organization & Goal Setting
- Using Online Games
- Positive Influence and Exposure
- Promoting a Self-Starting Environment
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A recent honors graduate of Florida State University with a degree in English, I have always been an avid and passionate writer.
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