Motivating Students to Learn

Motivating students to learn in school

Motivating students to learn in school

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from teachers and school administrators when speaking at schools is that students are just not motivated to learn, especially during the pandemic. 

Let’s step in the shoes of the students. They go from socializing with their friends every day and doing the activities they enjoy to complete lockdown or heavy restrictions when they are coming to school. Many of their goals they had planned went down the drain. 

Even though the same thing is happening to us, it is our duty to provide students with the best learning experience as school administrators and teachers.

How do you make sure you are motivating students to learn?

Besides being a youth motivational speaker, I also used to teach public speaking to middle and high school students for a couple of youth organizations. A subject that the majority of the students didn’t want to do. Many parents were happy not only because their students were able to give a confident presentation by the end of class but also enjoyed going to class.

I want to share five tips for motivating students to learn from my experience. These tips are not an end-all, but it is a great start to see a drastic improvement in your students.

1. Don’t give a lecture; provide an experience.

I had a Biology teacher in 9th grade who I LOVED. I was not too fond of Biology, but I loved his class. Why? It is because he didn’t just teach the lesson; he provided an experience. He made us laugh, made the class hands-on, always had constant class participation, and most importantly, his teaching style was unique. He made a complicated subject for someone who didn’t like science into an unforgettable experience. He was one of the few teachers I remembered out of 18 years of schooling.

Put yourself in the student’s shoes. You are learning 7 – 8 hours a day every day. It can get boring, and there will be information overload. Don’t just teach the subject; make it fun for the class. How do you want your student to remember you and the class?

2. Empower the students.

When I would have students give a presentation in every class, instead of giving the student all the feedback myself, I would start with having the students in the classroom give seventy percent of the input to the person presenting. Students providing input in class allows them to feel like they are in control. Students love to feel like they are part of something and contributing. If the class feels like the teacher is the only one in power, they will be less motivated to learn.

Another way to empower students is through self-reflection. A student is more likely to improve if they tell themselves how to improve versus someone telling them. Also, have students provide feedback about the class.

3. Provide a mixture of praise and feedback.

Constructive feedback allows the student to get better and enhances growth. It will enable students to take responsibility for their actions and see what they can do better next time.  

Praise boost the confidence of the student and helps them feel better about themselves. When you praise a specific behavior, that tells the student that they should do more of that. Praise efforts, not their ability.

Too much praise or constructive criticism is not good. Too much criticism will lead to the student thinking there is something wrong with them. Too much praise doesn’t push the student to make progress, which is why it is essential to incorporate both in your classroom.

4. Connect with the students on a more personal basis.

Your job is to not only teach your subject, but your job is also to care. Students are more likely to perform in the classroom if they know that you genuinely care for them. Go out of your way to get to know your students on a more personal basis. You don’t need to know everything about them, but it is good to know each student a little. Knowing your students creates a better student-to-teacher connection.

A student is more likely to do well if they feel a connection with their teacher. It will also help you to give relatable examples while teaching. It allows you to see where your students are having the most challenges and help them break those barriers so they can perform in your class.

5. Help Build Their Confidence

I remember being horrible in specific subjects like reading, writing, and science. I think the only subject I was truly good at was math. It would make me feel that I am dumb and that the other kids were smarter than me. That affected my confidence. Although feeling dumb had nothing to do with my teachers, it is the teacher’s responsibility to try their best to build it.

How can you do that as an educator?

Show students that it is ok to make mistakes.

No one likes to feel they made a mistake and then get belittled for it. Make your classroom a judge-free zone. When a student makes a mistake, provide the necessary feedback to get better and move on. Make it ok for them to correct you when you make mistakes, which shows that no one is perfect, not even adults. Embrace a growth mindset.

Set your students up for success.

Set clear expectations and specific/realistic goals for your students. Do your best to provide the right amount of resources for your students to succeed. Make your email or office hours available for students who need further instruction.

Record lectures if your school allows them. The recording will allow students to review the lessons again if they don’t understand them. Have review sessions before your test. Provide the best opportunity for your student to succeed. If they don’t do well, it won’t be because you didn’t do your best to provide them with everything; it will be because of a student’s lack of effort.


Cut yourself some slack if your students are not motivated. Many of these factors have nothing to do with you. They are facing challenges at home, and that can affect them in school. Your job as an educator is to do your best to help students feel motivated in the classroom. When motivating students to learn, measure what works and what doesn’t work. Do more of what works and eliminate the strategies that don’t work.

If you want to share the best virtual learning strategies with your students, visit my article I wrote six months ago. (5 Virtual Learning Ideas for Better Grades)

Best of luck!!

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