Ministry of Education, Guyana

Helping Students Become Motivated Learners

Fundamentally, the process of motivation stems from stimulation, which in turn is followed by an emotional reaction that leads to a specific behavioral response. In the classroom, if a student's behavior is regarded as desirable and is rewarded, the positive reinforcement stimulates the student to repeat the desirable behavior. Conversely, if a student's behavior is regarded as undesirable and the individual receives a response with a negative undertone, demotivation results. Furthermore, anxiety and frustration often result if behavior thought to be positive does not lead to proper recognition, reinforcement and reward.

Basically, motivations stems from unsatisfied needs.

Generally, students will show some self-motivation if they (1) know what is expected of them, (2) think the effort is worthwhile, and (3) feel they will benefit through effective performance.

Watch what you say

Some teachers feel that motivating students is really not one of their job responsibilities. However, whether they like it or not, students are expecting and collecting feedback from their instructors. Teachers need to be very aware of impact that their verbal comments and nonverbal body language have on their students' motivation level. Below are some tips for being a motivator and not a demotivator.

Things to do

Show honest appreciation. When teachers use "I statements" to convey their honest appreciation about a student, the teacher is communicating personal appreciation, rather than using a mechanical or an exaggerated response. Below are some examples of honest appreciation."

  • "I appreciate that."
  • "I like the way you said that."

Communicate empathetic acceptance or understanding. Because students will often make incorrect responses, it is up to the teacher to respond without discouraging the student from being willing to take risks and attempting to problem solve. "I'm with you" statements communicate an empathetic acceptance or understanding of what a student has experienced or what they are trying to communicate. This communicates that the student is not alone, and the teacher appreciates their attempt to perform. Below are some good examples of "I'm with you":

  • "I might make that same mistake."
  • "Lots of us feel that way."

Provide attention without praise. This is done when a teacher simply gives time and attention to a student by listening carefully. When teachers do this, they are supporting and encouraging a student without causing the student to grow dependent on the teacher approval or praise. Below are a list of things to do when giving attention without praise:

  • Simply give students time so that you can listen or communicate with them about a situation.
  • Greet a student after their absence.

Use plain corrects or incorrects. Sometimes it is best to tell a student that an answer was correct or incorrect without stimulating any distracting emotion.

This allows the teacher to treat the students like intelligent people who do not appreciate overstatements or exaggerations. Below is a list of some appropriate plain correct responses:

  • "Yes, that's right."
  • "Thank you for taking a risk to answer that, even though it was the wrong answer."

Provide praise and reward for all. Teachers must be fair in distributing their praise and all students should receive praise. Look for positive things to say about a students work even when pointing out problems or mistakes with the work. Some might receive praise for bigger accomplishments than others but even the lower performers need a regular pat on the back. Teacher should also gives praise to the class as a whole to encourage the class and also build team unity.


Too much praise can lead to a student becoming dependent on it. When a teacher's praise becomes a pleasure for the student instead of serving to motivate them, it basically becomes a addiction. The student begins to require constant praise and develops no personal initiative.

Unfairness is an issue that occurs quite frequently in many classrooms. Consciously and unconsciously teachers tend to react more positively to some students more than others. Teachers need to try to put personal differences aside and treat each student equally so that each students has the same opportunity to be motivated to learn.

Manipulation happens when teachers focus their attention on the positive behavior of a student or group of students in order to hint that a certain behavior is the most desirable. This works in some situations to motivate students to modify their behavior; yet, underneath it is really saying that it is okay to manipulate people to get what you want Below are a couple of examples:

  • "Look at how well Jane did on the assignment."
  • "I really like how well this side of the room is contributing."

Exaggeration quickly devalues honest relationships between students and teachers. Exaggerated praise includes statements such as those presented below. When these kind of statements are used repetitively, students are not encouraged to be intrinsically motivated, rather they depend on extrinsic motivation.

  • "Great answer!"
  • " Super!"

The overall goal of teachers should be to help students develop into self-motivating learners. Students who are encouraged to become motivated lifelong learners will be more successful in and out of the classroom.


Read 4010 times Last modified on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 12:05
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