How to Motivate Students

How to Motivate Students

Some ideas and teaching strategies on how to keep students motivated

At some point in a teacher or student’s career they will be faced with the challenge of teaching an unmotivated student.  Such challenges can be frustrating for both teacher and student so we’ve written a brief guide on the most effective ways to put the spark back into a student’s learning.  Everyone has felt demotivated at some point in their lives whether it be linked to learning or not, but very often the thing that makes the difference is approach and perspective.  In short, the most effective way to motivate a student is by engaging their interest.


How Do You Know If a Student Is Motivated?

You can tell if someone is motivated from their body language and their verbal responses.  If someone is sitting up straight, pen in hand, notebook on table and eyes fixed to the speaker, then they are generally engaged with whatever content is being taught.  Verbal responses might take the form of reinforced language – if a student repeats what a teacher is saying, it’s generally a sign that they’re taking on board what is being taught and thinking about the task at hand.


Positive Reinforcement


A little praise can go a long way.  By reassuring students that they’re doing well, you let them know that their hard work is paying off and they’ll soon see the results of their efforts.  Learning is a process and not everyone picks things up first time so by celebrating small successes along the way, students will be more likely to commit to learning in the long term.  Acknowledge a student’s good work during lessons and let others know about their successes too – class teachers, parents etc.  Be careful not to over praise however, as this can create false hope and lead to disappointment in the future.  Be honest with your praise and constructive with your criticism.


Set Short and Long Term Goals

When you give something your full concentration day in day out and can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  By creating short term ‘check points’, you give students an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve already achieved and to allow for any adjustments to be made before moving forward.  Even if each individual short term goal isn’t achieved, don’t necessarily view this as a bad thing as there will still be time for things to come together before the most important goal approaches. Set the barrier high but remember to be realistic.  It’s important to set expectations early on during a course of lessons and to make students aware that you can only take their learning so far – the rest is up to them.


Show Your Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm as they say is infectious.  If you’re passionate about what you’re teaching then your students are more likely to be engaged with the content.  By using positive and empowering words, you can often gain a reaction from students.  Make sure your students can relate to your examples – tell them a personal story and relate it to what you’re teaching, this gives the content an extra layer of intrigue as it becomes a real world experience.


Keep Things New


There’s nothing more demotivating than covering the same points over and over or using the same teaching strategies all the time. Variety is the spice of life so by adapting your teaching style to fit the content you’re students will feel that they’re approaching something they already know from a new angle.  By using a variety of different teaching methods, you cater to all types of learners and increase the chances of students achieving their goals.


Become Student Centred


By focusing more responsibility on what your students think, you encourage them to form their own opinions and set their own work schedules.  By giving a student more ownership over their work, you’re giving them less opportunity to find fault in the teaching method or content.  By enforcing the idea that they are responsible for their own learning, they may come to the realisation that blame doesn’t lead to results.  By asking your students what they enjoyed about a particular lesson, you’re giving them a chance to say what they feel and at the same time, they’re summarising the work that you’ve just covered.


Take Interest In Your Student's Interest

Everybody needs some down time so why not use the opportunity to get to know your students a bit better.  What are their interests outside of school?  What are their hobbies?  Knowing more about the person you’re teaching allows you to tailor lessons according to their individual needs.  You may discover a good way of tying in their interests with what you’re teaching.


Involve Friends and Parents


Keep parents up to date with what you’ve been teaching during lessons and encourage them to ask questions.  Given the opportunity, everybody likes to impress with knowledge so having a parent ask about lessons when you, as a teacher or tutor are present, gives them the chance to impress both parties.  Why not suggest students form a study group?  If you have several students who live close by, you could suggest they arrange to meet to discuss lessons and to share thoughts on coursework.


Image credit: Cristiano Betta -

  • Motivating students
  • Motivational learning
  • How to motivate students
  • How to motivate a bored student
  • Learning motivation
  • Motivation in the classroom
  • Motivation during lessons
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