Motivation is one of the key concept in psychology. It is mainly concerned with the why and how humans think and behave as they do. Its significance is particularly pronounced in the realm of classroom learning, where it’s often invoked to explain the successes and failures in learning processes.
Research proved time and again that well-designed curricula and effective teaching methods are not enough to drive students motivation. It takes an integrated and holistic approach that considers both intrinsic and extrinsic factors to enhance students motivation and drive their engagement (Dôrnyei, 2005).
So what are some of these classroom strategies that drive students motivation?
Before we delve into these strategies let clarify something here: when we talk about motivation strategies we need to differentiate between instructional interventions and self-regulating strategies. Instructional interventions as XXX state are “applied by the teacher to elicit and stimulate student motivation”, and self-regulating strategies “are used purposefully by individual students to manage the level of their own motivation” (p. 57)
In this post I am primarily concerned with instructional interventions, that is, those strategies, you as a teacher and educator can use in your teaching practice to drive students motivation and enhance their engagement.
Aspects of Motivation
In his paper “Student Motivation and the Alignment of Teacher Beliefs“, Weisman (2012) provides an insightful overview of different aspects of motivation in the educational context. Two aspects are of particular interest to us in this context: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation, a key component in learning, is driven by a natural curiosity and an inherent interest in a subject. This form of motivation manifests in two distinct ways: individual interest, where a child’s innate desire to learn plays a central role, and situational interest, spurred by environmental factors that pique one’s curiosity.
On the other hand, extrinsic motivation revolves around external rewards. However, as Weisman contends, the impact of these rewards is nuanced. While certain types of verbal rewards might bolster intrinsic motivation, most external rewards, particularly tangible or performance-based ones, can paradoxically undermine it. This highlights the delicate balance between internal drive and external incentives in the context of motivation.
Teacher Practices That Enhance Student Motivation
In the insightful work of Weisman (2012), several key practices are identified that significantly enhance student motivation. These practices include:
- Creating Caring Environments: Positive student-teacher relationships are crucial.
- Empathy and Understanding: Understanding students’ lives and affirming their interests can significantly influence motivation.
- Providing Choice and Responsibility: Letting students make choices about their learning enhances motivation.
- Hands-On Activities: Encouraging investigative or experiential learning activities helps in knowledge construction.
Classroom Motivation Strategies
Drawing upon the insightful work of Guilloteaux & Dörnyei (2008), specifically from pages 63-64, this section delves into a variety of motivational strategies, enriched with my own examples and explanations to illustrate their practical application in educational settings. These strategies, which range from tangible rewards to fostering a competitive yet collaborative classroom atmosphere, are pivotal in enhancing student engagement and motivation, offering a dynamic and effective approach to teaching and learning.
1. Pair Work
- Explanation: Pair work involves two students collaborating on a task. This approach is beneficial as it allows for peer-to-peer interaction, sharing of ideas, and mutual support.
- Example: In a language class, students might work in pairs to practice a new set of vocabulary words. Each student takes turns using a word in a sentence, while the other offers feedback or suggests improvements.
2. Group Work
- Explanation: Group work requires students to collaborate in small teams. This fosters a sense of community, encourages diverse perspectives, and develops teamwork skills.
- Example: In a science class, students could work in groups to conduct an experiment. Each member could have a specific role (like note-taker, experimenter, or analyst) to contribute to the group’s overall success.
3. Play Games in Class
- Explanation: Incorporating games into learning can make the process more enjoyable and engaging. Games stimulate competition and cooperation, making learning more dynamic.
- Example: A math teacher might use a game like ‘Bingo’ to reinforce multiplication skills. Each correct answer allows a student to mark a spot on their Bingo card.
4. Students Self-Evaluate
- Explanation: Self-evaluation empowers students to assess their own learning. This encourages reflection, self-awareness, and responsibility for their learning process.
- Example: After completing a writing assignment, students could use a checklist to evaluate their work for elements like grammar, structure, and content clarity.
5. Students Co-Evaluate
- Explanation: Co-evaluation, or peer review, involves students evaluating each other’s work. This method provides different perspectives and can foster a collaborative learning environment.
- Example: In a history class, students might peer-review each other’s essays, offering constructive feedback on arguments, evidence used, and clarity of writing.
- Explanation: Scaffolding is a teaching method that involves providing students with temporary support until they can perform tasks independently. This approach is tailored to the student’s current level of understanding.
- Example: In learning a complex concept like fractions, a teacher might start with concrete examples using physical objects, gradually moving to more abstract representations as students’ understanding deepens.
7. Arousing Curiosity or Attention
- Explanation: This strategy involves sparking students’ interest at the beginning of an activity. By arousing curiosity, you engage students and make the learning process more intriguing.
- Example: In a geography lesson, the teacher might start by showing a mysterious image of a place and asking students to guess where it could be, hinting at the unique characteristics of that location.
8. Establishing Relevance
- Explanation: Making a direct connection between what’s being learned and the students’ everyday lives helps them understand the practical application of knowledge.
- Example: In a mathematics class, a teacher could explain how algebra is used in calculating discounts during shopping, thus linking the lesson to a common real-life scenario.
- Explanation: Clearly stating lesson objectives or summarizing progress helps students understand the purpose of the lesson and how it fits into the larger curriculum.
- Example: At the start of a history lesson, the teacher might say, “Today, we’re going to learn about the causes of World War I, which will help us understand current global political dynamics.”
10. Social Chat
- Explanation: Engaging in informal conversation on topics unrelated to the lesson can build rapport, make the classroom environment more relaxed and approachable.
- Example: A teacher might start a class with a brief chat about a popular sporting event or a new movie, creating a friendly atmosphere.
11. Promoting Autonomy
- Explanation: Allowing students to make choices and take part in decision-making fosters independence and makes learning more personally engaging.
- Example: In a language arts class, students could be given the choice to select a book for a book report. Alternatively, they might decide how to present their project, whether through a traditional report, a creative video, or a class presentation.
12. Tangible Reward
- Explanation: Offering physical rewards for participation or successful completion of an activity can serve as a direct motivator, especially for younger students.
- Example: A teacher might give stickers or small treats to students who complete their math homework on time.
- Explanation: Allowing students to incorporate their personal experiences, feelings, or opinions into their work makes learning more relevant and engaging for them.
- Example: In an English class, students could write essays based on their own life experiences or opinions on a topic, thus making the assignment more personally meaningful.
14. Tangible Task Product
- Explanation: Having students create a physical product as a part of their learning process can enhance engagement and provide a sense of accomplishment.
- Example: In a science class, students could create a model of a solar system, or in art, they might design a brochure for an exhibition.
15. Individual Competition
- Explanation: Activities that include elements of individual competition can motivate students to perform better by tapping into their competitive spirit.
- Example: A math quiz where students compete to solve problems the fastest can encourage individual effort and focus.
16. Team Competition
- Explanation: Involving an element of team competition can build teamwork and collaborative skills, while still leveraging the motivational benefits of competition.
- Example: A history trivia game where students work in teams to answer questions can foster both cooperation and a competitive drive.
17. Effective Praise
- Explanation: Giving praise that is sincere, specific, and commensurate with the student’s achievement can boost confidence and reinforce positive behavior.
- Example: Instead of just saying “Good job!”, a teacher might say, “I’m impressed with how you used evidence to support your argument in that essay.”
18. Class Applause
- Explanation: Celebrating a student’s or a group’s effort or success through applause can create a positive and supportive classroom environment.
- Example: After a student presents a well-researched project, the teacher could lead the class in applauding their effort and achievement.
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In conclusion, the exploration of effective classroom strategies underscores the multifaceted nature of motivation in educational settings. Indeed, the insights provided by educational researchers like Dôrnyei and Weisman offer valuable guidance for teachers in creating a learning environment that not only educates but also inspires and motivates.
By integrating these strategies into everyday teaching practices, educators can ignite a passion for learning, cultivate a supportive classroom atmosphere, and ultimately enhance the educational journey for their students. This holistic approach to motivation in the classroom is not just about academic achievement; it’s about nurturing lifelong learners who are curious, confident, and motivated to explore the world around them.
- Bernaus, M., & Gardner, R. C. (2008). Teacher Motivation Strategies, Student Perceptions, Student Motivation, and English Achievement. The Modern Language Journal, 92(3), 387–401. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25173065
- Guilloteaux, M. J., & Dörnyei, Z. (2008). Motivating Language Learners: A Classroom-Oriented Investigation of the Effects of Motivational Strategies on Student Motivation. TESOL Quarterly, 42(1), 55–77. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40264425
- WIESMAN, J. (2012). Student Motivation and the Alignment of Teacher Beliefs. The Clearing House, 85(3), 102–108. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23212853