Teaching is more than learning facts and passing tests: it’s about preparing students for life. Sadly, so many teaching systems around the world find this difficult to acknowledge and place far too much emphasis on the former, creating very narrow ways in which achievement is assessed.
If you are a student who does not respond well to these methods of assessment, you will likely be told repeatedly that you’re not very clever, which would cause anyone to lack the motivation in trying to pass these assessments.
As a teacher, your job is partly to prepare students for such tests, but it’s also to instill in them an interest in learning. For that you need motivation, so here are seven ways to motivate your students.
One reason your students lack motivation might be that they don’t know what is expected of them. Anyone would struggle to pursue a goal if they didn’t know what it was. Provide your students with a clear breakdown of your goals, lesson by lesson and across the class, and show how they can be achieved.
Keep track of performance for each student throughout the class. This can be any set of points, from test scores to effort grades, even motivation itself. Then, let the students in on the process: let them see how their work has changed over the class. You don’t have to use this too harshly — students rarely respond well to over-testing — but it can be a good way of approaching students on their level.
Sometimes a lack of motivation is a manifestation of a lack of control. Those of us that work boring office jobs where you feel you have no agency in your own work struggle to motivate ourselves too: we like to see the impact of our work and know we have control over that impact. You can inject some agency into your students by allowing your students to vote on activities, or have some say in an aspect of the curriculum.
Don’t be too arrogant to admit you could be doing better. Some students simply will not respond to certain approaches, activities or styles of teaching, so it’s your job to try something new. Ask other teachers what they do, do some research into alternative teaching methods, maybe from places and cultures you’re not familiar with. Try something completely different from what you’re used to and see if it impacts the less motivated students.
Class outside is almost a cliché, but you’d be surprised how effective it can be. Both students and teachers can imbue a location with negative psychological associations after repeated bad experiences. For a student, their classroom might represent the place they can’t focus, where they get bad grades and negative feedback, and for teachers it can be the place they fail to do their job. Try and dislodge these bad associations. Change up the location by going on a field trip or moving to the library, or refresh the classroom environment with student art or information posters.
An unmotivated student might just be a student who’s afraid to speak up. Whether intentional or not, a teacher may be projecting an atmosphere where students are discouraged from getting things wrong. In reality, learning is all about mistakes and being able to correct them. Avoid shooting down students who try something out and focus on the benefit of trying rather than the consequences of getting things wrong.
All of the above tips are a lot easier to implement when you know and genuinely care about your students. If you’re reading this article you probably already do care: nurture that. Learn about your students’ strengths, weaknesses, interests and aspirations and you will be able to craft lessons that implement these, making your teaching much more engaging.
Author Bio: Katherine Rundell is a lifestyle writer at OX Essays service. She writes about teaching and student motivation.