Motivation in the Classroom Perhaps the most important aspect of

Perhaps the most important aspect of successful teaching is the ability to motivate. Motivating students can be especially difficult if the students are not attending class willingly or if the subject matter is dry. Unfortunately, there is no single magical formula for motivating students. Many factors affect a given student´s motivation to work and to learn (Bligh, 1971; Sass, 1989): interest in the subject matter, perception of its usefulness, general desire to achieve, self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as patience and persistence. Yet regardless of the challenges, every teacher needs to find effective methods for inspiring pupils to learn. Though teaching techniques vary, I believe there are three critical practices that one will find in any class of motivated students.

Helping students find value or personal meaning in the material being taught is the first step in getting the attention of students and motivating them to learn. In the popular ESA (Engage, Study, Activate) teaching approach, the teacher must first engage the students with a discussion, visual aide, or other prop to focus attention. An effective teacher will choose an engage topic that leads directly to the forthcoming lesson plan. This technique establishes immediate relevance to the student because the student can relate the content to be learned to his own life. Explain how the content and objectives of your course will help students achieve their educational, professional, or personal goals. (Sources: Brock, 1976; Cashin, 1979; Lucas, 1990) This is important because a student will be much more motivated to learn something that assists in the function of their daily lives than to learn dry material that they cannot see value in.

The next strategy for creating a motivated class is to assign tasks that challenge, but do not overwhelm a student's abilities. There is nothing that depresses attitude more than failure. If a student attempting tasks meets with failure too often it is a virtual certainty his motivation will decline. It is therefore vital that the teacher assign tasks that challenge the boundaries of student learning while giving ample opportunity to succeed. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible -which means that you need to provide early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 -1 Lowman, 1984) Finding the right balance can be difficult, but building upon successes breeds confidence in a student and encourages him to learn more.

Giving frequent, positive feedback is perhaps the most important aspect of creating motivation in the classroom. A student needs to know that his skills and knowledge are developing in order for him to want to continue. As the acknowledged expert, a teacher should not underestimate the effect his feedback will have on a student. The teacher must take care that the feedback given is constructive, not negative. Whenever you identify a student´s weakness, make it clear that your comments relate to a particular task or performance, not to the student as a person. Try to cushion negative comments with a compliment about aspects of the task in which the student succeeded. (Source: Cashin, 1979) If the feedback is consistently negative, it will only make a student want to give up. Instead, giving feedback that focuses on strengths while gently correcting mistakes encourages students and makes them feel good about the progress that is being made. The ability to motivate students successfully is a challenge every teacher must face. Unfortunately, motivation in a student is not something that can be forced; it can only be encouraged. First, teachers should make a point of demonstrating that the topic at hand has relevance and meaning to the student in their daily lives. Next, ensure the activities assigned are challenging enough to stretch the student's abilities, but not overwhelm them. Students need to feel they can succeed in order for them to desire to continue. Consistent with a student achieving success, a teacher should also provide regular, positive feedback that focuses on strengths and gently redirects mistakes. Of course, creating a sense of motivation in students is not an easy thing for any teacher to do, but following these simple guidelines give teachers their best chance of success.


Bligh, D. A. What´s the Use of Lecturing' Devon, England: Teaching Services Centre, University of Exeter, 1971.

Sass, E. J. "Motivation in the College Classroom: What Students Tell Us." Teaching of Psychology, 1989, 16(2), 86-88.

Cashin, W. E. "Motivating Students." Idea Paper, no. 1. Manhattan: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development in Higher Education, Kansas State University, 1979

Brock, S. C. Practitioners´ Views on Teaching the Large Introductory College Course. Manhattan: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University, 1976.

Lucas, A. F. "Using Psychological Models to Understand Student Motivation." In M. D. Svinicki (ed.), The Changing Face of College Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 42. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.