All students are motivated, just not by what we'd like them to be motivated by! In addition to extrinsic motivation, we can create an environment in which students are more intrinsically motivated. In other words, they are internally motivated, which is longer lasting than extrinsic motivation. There are two keys to intrinsic motivation: value and success. Students are more motivated when they see value in what they are doing and when they feel successful.
Students can see value in three ways. First, they see value when the lesson is relevant. That’s why students ask, “Why do we need to learn this?” It’s part of our wiring to want to know why we are doing something. That can be everything from seeing their name in a word problem to realizing that chemical mixtures are important because “my mom is a hair stylist and she mixes chemicals to color hair!”
Next, they can see value through activities. Students are more motivated when they are doing something, rather than just sitting and getting. Haven’t you seen this in your classroom? It’s important for us to engage students at high levels throughout our instruction.
Finally, students see value through their relationship with you and their peers. The old adage, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care is true. We have to build positive relationships with our students, and among our students, because they are also motivated by their peers.
The other part of the equation is success. Students are more motivated when they feel successful. And many of the students you teach have never felt successful in school. It’s our challenge to help students feel successful by providing the appropriate support and scaffolding they need.
Next time: 8 Strategies to Build Student Motivation