What Teachers Can Do to Boost Student Motivation

What teacher doesn’t want an environment where students are working on lessons and learning because they want to do it instead of because they have to do it? Researchers have identified four specific ways to nurture a sense of intrinsic motivation in students. In this video series, educators and authors Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski discuss these elements: autonomy, which is helping learners feel that they have a choice in what they do and how they do it; competence, or creating situations in which students feel that they are capable of doing what they are being asked to do; relatedness, or doing activities that help students connect to others; and relevance, or making work seem interesting, valuable, and useful to students’ everyday lives.

Why Autonomy Matters

Studies show that giving students a role in deciding what their educational experience looks like can help motivate them. This input may include having a say in their classroom environment, being able to choose their homework assignment, or even being allowed to develop ideas for their own assignments related to what is being studied in class.

Praising Competence Instead of Natural Ability

Students are more likely to do something if they feel like they have the ability to be successful doing it. This can be accomplished by praising effort instead of natural ability, showing students their growth over a semester, or even having students become teachers to their classmates.

Helping Students Relate to Others

Building relationships with peers and teachers helps students feel cared about by people they respect. There are two parts to this equation: one is creating learning situations in which students come to like and respect their classmates and have opportunities to work with them, and the second is creating a positive relationship between teachers and students.

Making Students’ Work Relevant

For students to feel motivated, they must see the work they are doing in the classroom as interesting, valuable, and useful to their present lives. Teachers should consider having lesson plans and discussions about topics prevalent in students’ lives, having students set academic and non-academic goals, and challenging students to write about why what they are learning is relevant.

Related Reading

Video Credits:
Written by: Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski
Filmed by: Tyrel Tesch
Animated by: Richard Sliwinski
Executive Producer: Emma Patti Harris

Sponsored by:

Coverage of whole-child approaches to learning is supported in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

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