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Motivation for students

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A Motivation for students

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    • #43758

      Sometimes I see that a lot of students are discouraged by their grades in multiple subjects which prevents them from trying to do better. With low self-esteem, they start to think that they can’t change the situation. How do I motivate a student who considers themselves “too dumb” to learn or to recall/retain information?

      What would be some strategies that I can use with her besides just giving a pep talk that will make her believe in her abilities?

    • #43811
      Patricia Bentolila

      One important thing to mention is that evaluation should be not only about results but process. Make sure students are given feedback on how they are working?, how much effort they are putting into a task?, their attitude towards the matter to learn? and they should be praised for their actions instead of for what they are, or are not. Many teachers praise children for being “intelligent”, “smart”, “wise” or on the contrary for being “slow”or “not smart”, etc. The praise should go to the actions they take since no one is intelligent or not intelligent. We know our brains change depending on many variables that influence us. So one thing to do to motivate your students is definitively: praise the process: for example say things like: “I see you are putting a lot of effort in doing this classwork”, “I notice how much this subject interest you”, “you tried your best, now, how about doing it this way….” . Language is more important than we know, how things are said matter.
      Another important strategy to work on is variating the evaluation method. Some students are not good test takers. We can find out if our students achieve a learning through different activities. Make sure you use a variety of techniques in order to assess the learning. Use oral presentations, charts, map minding, writing songs, drama presentations. Some students will be able to show what they have learned through a different method. When they find themselves doing something they like, they will accomplish better, resulting in stoping the vicious circle of bad grades.
      This are just two of many ways a teacher can help bust motivation, specially when a student is in the cycle of low achievement. If the teacher plans for some little success, he is taking the responsibility and helping guarantee that the student will start making progress.

    • #43914
      Dani Odri

      Hello Nusrat,

      Patricia, has given you some excellent strategies that support the development of a growth mindset in your students. A good resource for Carol Dweck’s research on mindsets is a very informative, yet easy to read book titled:
      “Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools”. by
      Mary Cay Ricci, Prufrock Press Inc, USA, 2013
      I have just bought this resource for my staff and they have found it most helpful.

    • #69641
      Yvonne Abraham

      This was a very interesting post. I think I tend to have more of a fixed mindset although I do try implement strategies for myself to change my thinking about my own learning. There was a study where children were given puzzles to complete. Some of the students were praised on effort while others were praised on how fast the puzzles were completed and we’re told how smart they were. The children that were praised on effort were more likely to select a harder puzzle. This really resonates with me because a lot of times it is fear of failure that keeps me from trying new things. You guys provided some really strategies and resources. Thanks!

    • #71016

      Couldn’t agree more that providing positive and constructive feedback to children/students can be very effective in motivating them to continue to improve on their performance and learning. In fact, even adults crave for their friends, family members or colleagues to acknowledge their effort, input or progress.

      In fact, whenever we hear expressions of praise like “I appreciate your effort”, or “You’ve been working hard and trying different ways to improve, I am proud of you!!”, these already carry the effect of positive rewards and may naturally trigger our brain internal reward system to work – i.e. dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens has been linked to the efficacy of unconditioned rewards, but dopamine release in a broader range of structures is implicated in the ‘stamping-in’ of memory that attaches motivational importance to otherwise neutral environmental stimuli – refer to Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5, 483-494 (June 2004) Dopamine, learning and motivation by Roy A. Wise).

      Hence, my usual approach if firstly acknowledge effort or say what are 2-3 observable good deeds that I noticed from students, then analyze with students what are some other factors that they may have missed, example some students may have made minor mistakes because they have not carefully eliminate careless mistakes, or some may have trouble gathering all important details to solve problems. So working out with students what are the missing pieces of the puzzle that hinder them to do well, then adjust their approaches, they can usually improve their standard or performance. This is very convincing and help them to re-gain confidence to move forward.

      Great we can share more on this topic, Thanks!!

    • #71051

      Another aspect to think about is teacher credibility from Hattie’s Visible Learning (Hattie, 2015). He states that teacher credibility is made up of trust, competence, dynamism, and immediacy. Immediacy refers to breaking down barriers between the teacher and the students. In your case, do your students know that, like them, you have struggled and at times have failed. That you make mistakes, but learn from them and keep trying.

      I know in my own experience that the teachers who opened up about their mistakes and failures and how they worked with them seemed closer and more real and had a greater impact on me. Teachers who appeared to get everything right and did not have struggles of any kind seemed more distant to me.

      Another extension of this is to then give examples of other well know people who struggled in school or failed at other aspects of life but kept trying and in the end succeeded. Whether it is Michael Jordon being cut from his high school basketball team, or Albert Einstein’s struggles in school, there are a lot of examples of struggles turned to success. Your students should learn about some of these stories especially with people they look up to and have no idea they struggled as well.

    • #72023

      Great question, nusrat-jahan! If you are asking about a student vs. teacher I would offer that a thorough discussion of what is not working well with the student may help. Once those areas are out in the open, find 1 or 2 things that the student could do to be more successful. For example, a book on study skills which lists various ways to improve study techniques would be very practical. Make a list of the skills or strategies the student wants to work on and set some achievable goals. Often it could be a pretty simple adjustment re: organization of materials (use a binder to collect class materials, date and keep in order) and the study environment (turn off screens). I had this discussion with a college student who was really struggling academically and was lacking motivation. We talked about what was not working and what her goals were for herself as a student. We then listed a few things to try over a short period, including getting a planner and listing all assignments, exams, etc. I had her show me for added accountability and encouragement the planner once she had it set up . She did make improvements with the practical tools and did perform better in her classes. This was very motivating for her, along with my cheering her on along the way! There are MANY websites that list study skills for all ages and offer suggestions on how to improve ! Performance accomplishment is one of the important self-efficacy and I would add motivational conduits!

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