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Strategies to Engage and Motivate Students in Classroom

Learning is a lifelong journey that requires motivation to sustain a passion for continuous growth. As educators, you aim to inspire, instil drive, ignite excitement, and foster curiosity in your students. However, what can you do when your students lack motivation? How can you keep their fire of curiosity burning and prevent it from fading away?

In this blog, we will explain and provide some strategies to motivate students in the classroom. Let’s get started! 

Types of Motivation

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within a person, driven by genuine interest, enjoyment, and satisfaction in learning. For instance, you may be motivated to achieve satisfactory grades in a foreign language course because you truly want to become fluent in the language. Research shows that intrinsic motivation is associated with higher performance, student achievement, and overall success (Ryan & Deci, 2020).

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is derived from external sources and involves contingent rewards. A student may feel motivated to get good grades in foreign language classes if they receive tangible rewards, such as compliments or rewards, or if they wish to avoid punishments. This type of motivation is fueled by external factors, such as approval from others, including parents or teachers (Benabou & Tirole, 2003).

10 Ways Teachers Can Motivate Students

Balancing student motivation, classroom management, and subject teaching can be challenging. Consider trying some of the suggestions below to see the impact they can have.

Building Relationships

Building quality relationships with your students is crucial. When students start formal schooling, their development is influenced by interpersonal relationships in the school setting, which positively affects their motivation to learn, behaviour, and cognitive skills (McFarland et al., 2016).

One strategy is to administer interest inventories at the beginning of the school year to understand students’ interests. Take the time to get to know each student individually by asking about their weekends, sports games, or other activities they participate in, and demonstrate a genuine interest in their lives.

Physical learning environment

Modify the physical learning environment. Who says students need to sit in single-file rows, all facing the front of the room or even as desks for that matter?

Flexible seating is something you may want to try. Students who are comfortable in a learning space are better engaged, which leads to more meaningful, impactful learning experiences (Cole et al., 2021). 

Involve parents 

Involving parents and seeking their assistance can be beneficial in encouraging student motivation. Parents play a crucial role in students’ motivation (Tóth-Király et al., 2022).

It is essential to establish a positive relationship with parents as valuable allies. Consider making positive phone calls home before resorting to negative ones to build an effective relationship. Involve parents by sending home a weekly newsletter or inviting them to special events in the classroom. Communicate to parents that you are a team with the same goals for their child and emphasise the importance of working together to support student motivation.

Emphasis on relevance

Emphasising the relevance of the material is crucial in fostering student motivation. Showing students why the material is useful or directly connecting it to their lives to generate interest.

It is unsurprising that if a foreign language learner is not exposed to relevant material, it may take longer for them to acquire the language and achieve their goals (Shatz, 2014). When students do not perceive the importance or real-world application of what they are learning, their motivation to learn may be diminished.

Student-centered learning approach

Research has shown that student-centered learning approaches are more effective compared to teacher-centered teaching approaches (Peled et al., 2022).

In a student-centered approach, students are actively engaged in the learning process, while a teacher-centered approach involves the teacher primarily delivering information. Student-centered learning requires students to construct meaning from new information and their prior experiences. 

Student autonomy

Empower students with autonomy and ownership of their learning. Consider involving students as directors of their own learning and assigning project-based learning activities.

Look for ways to integrate technology into the classroom and encourage students to participate actively in discussions. Providing opportunities for students to make decisions and take on leadership roles can foster a student-centered learning environment where they are engaged and motivated to learn.

Engage in collaborative learning

Implementing collaborative learning strategies in the classroom can yield cognitive and motivational benefits, as supported by research (Järvelä et al., 2010), and social learning theory provides a valuable framework for understanding motivation in the classroom.

Consider assigning group or partner work where students collaborate on a shared task, also known as cooperative learning. Providing opportunities for both partner and small group work can be beneficial. Additionally, allowing students to choose their partners or groups, or assigning partners or groups strategically, can also be effective in promoting motivation and engagement in the classroom.

Alternative answering methods

Do you sometimes struggle to get students to answer your questions verbally? Who says verbal responses are the only option? You may want to explore alternative methods of answering in the classroom, such as utilising individual whiteboards, personal response systems or interactive student response games!

Another effective approach for obtaining student answers is using Quizlet (Setiawan & Wiedarti, 2020). These tools allow all students, including the shy ones, to participate and enable the teacher to conduct a class-wide formative assessment.

Incorporate new teaching methods.

Try incorporating new teaching methods to keep lessons engaging. If you are bored with your current teaching activities, your students may feel the same way. Experiment with inviting guest speakers to your classroom or incorporating debates and role-plays into your lessons. Research shows that teacher and student enjoyment in the classroom are positively correlated, and teachers’ enthusiasm also impacts students’ enjoyment (Frenzel et al., 2009).

Instil confidence and a safe environment

Creating a safe and confident environment is crucial for students in the classroom. Teachers can foster such an environment by establishing clear expectations of respect among students. Involving students in the process of creating a classroom contract or norms can also be beneficial.

Regularly refer to the classroom contract or norms posted in the classroom to review expectations with students. Address any deviations from these agreements and provide praise and recognition to students frequently. It’s important to acknowledge all students’ responses, even if they are wild or off-topic, to encourage participation and build confidence.

In a nutshell

Teaching specific subjects and managing classrooms can be challenging when it comes to motivating students. Some students may come into the classroom already intrinsically motivated, while others may lack motivation entirely. Nevertheless, as teachers, you should understand the importance of motivation and the need to inspire all students, including those who are difficult to motivate.

As Plutarch said, education is like a fire that needs to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled. When it comes to students with little to no motivation, it may require more time, patience, and understanding. However, by implementing these effective strategies, you can ignite that spark of motivation and set students on a path to success.

Are you an educator seeking to elevate your career? Check out the teacher education programs Master of Arts in Leadership in Education, Master of Arts in Education and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (International) meticulously curated to equip you with cutting-edge skills, expand your knowledge, and empower you to stay ahead in your journey as an educator. 

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