Motivated to Learn: How to Foster Student Motivation

Motivated to Learn - How to Foster Student Motivation

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Since the middle of the 20th century, researchers and educators have found a lot of evidence linking the motivation to learn and study with a variety of positive outcomes, such as task endurance, increased academic success, creative problem-solving, and general well-being. Children who are properly motivated to learn do better in school and in life because they show a commitment to learning, which is important for their mental, social, and behavioral health. In this article, we’ll share tips, strategies and resources that parents and teachers can use to foster and help their children become more self-motivated to learn and driven to succeed.

Self-motivated children and students put a great deal of work into studying because they see the importance and value of learning and acquiring knowledge. Those who are truly driven to succeed actively solve problems and develop strategies for persevering through setbacks. They cultivate a healthy outlook on education and schooling, as well as strong analytical abilities. No matter how engaging the curriculum is or how effective the teachers are, an uninspired or unmotivated child will probably not succeed academically. Each child is unique, and what succeeds for one may not go well for another. You can try different motivational activities and see which ones your child responds to best.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation occurs when students and children are motivated to do or learn something because they know they will value it, rather than because of what they will get out of it (extrinsic motivation), we say that they are motivated intrinsically. Extrinsic motivation occurs when students and children are urged to perform or act in a specific manner by circumstances outside of themselves (like awards or to avoid punishment).

Children who are more intrinsically driven to accomplish tend to have a greater interest in learning and perform better academically. There is evidence that both types of motivation—intrinsic and extrinsic—contribute to students’ success in school. Students who are intrinsically driven take part in learning activities because they really like them, whereas students who are extrinsically motivated do so because they are expected to.

Educators and parents can use both extrinsic and intrinsic forms of motivation at different points in the learning process. Rewards can be effective if the young person has no intrinsic interest in the action. However, in general, extrinsic incentives should be not be used often — though they can be used during the early learning period and then phased out as more interest is shown. We suggest the following to encourage intrinsic motivation:

  • Promote intrinsic motivation by supporting autonomy and competence.
  • Communicate tasks in a way that so students can accomplish them in their own way.
  • Use grades for information rather than managing students’ study habits.
  • Consider whether external constraints like deadlines will be perceived as too controlling.
  • Offer choices and involving students in establishing rules and procedures.
  • Aim for tasks that are of intermediate difficulty for students, as these are optimally challenging.
  • Introducing novelty and creativity to tasks.
  • Valuing consistent engagement in mastering new skills.
  • Teach students that consistent engagement is required for mastering new skills.
  • Teach students that new skills may become their own reward.

Comparison Table: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic MotivationExtrinsic Motivation
DefinitionEngaging in an activity for the sake of the activity itselfEngaging in an activity for external rewards or pressures
SourceComes from within the individualComes from outside the individual
EffectivenessUsually more effective and longer-lastingOften less effective and short-term
ExamplesReading for pleasure, pursuing a hobby, exploring new ideasStudying for grades, completing chores for an allowance, participating in a competition

Strategies to Foster Children’s Motivation to Learn

Children and young adults can be more motivated to study and learn with the help of strategies that encourage self-discipline, outcome expectations, structured extrinsic motivation, time management, and a self-determined learning setting. By implementing these strategies consistently and persistently, you can create a positive environment that will help your child thrive.

  • Foster a Growth Mindset: One of the most powerful things you can do to encourage self-motivation in your child is to foster a growth mindset. This means teaching your child that their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. Encourage your child to embrace challenges, learn from their mistakes, and persist in the face of setbacks. By helping your child develop a growth mindset, you can instill a sense of self-motivation that will serve them well throughout their life.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Another important strategy for encouraging self-motivation in children is to set realistic goals. It’s important to set goals that are achievable and meaningful to your child. Encourage your child to set their own goals, and help them break those goals down into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate your child’s progress along the way, and help them adjust their goals as needed. Additionally, set ambitious goals, as research has shown that if students accept more difficult goals, they will work harder to accomplish them.
  • Provide Positive Feedback: Providing positive feedback is another key strategy for encouraging self-motivation in children. When your child accomplishes something, no matter how small, be sure to praise them for their efforts and celebrate your their achievements. Acknowledge their hard work and the progress they’ve made and offer support and guidance when they encounter challenges or setbacks. This can help your child develop a sense of confidence and self-motivation that will encourage them to keep working towards their goals.
  • Encourage Independence: Giving your child the opportunity to be independent, make choices and allowing them to have a say in their own learning can also encourage self-motivation. Let your child make their own decisions, and encourage them to take on tasks and challenges on their own. By doing so, you can help your child develop a sense of autonomy and self-reliance, which can be a powerful motivator. For example, you could offer your child a choice of books to read, or give them the option to choose which math problems to work on.
  • Provide Structure and Routine: While encouraging independence is important, it’s also important to provide structure and routine. Establish a daily routine that includes time for homework, chores, and other responsibilities, as well as time for play and relaxation. By providing structure and routine, you can help your child develop good habits and routines that will encourage self-motivation.
  • Interest and Relevance: Children are more likely to be motivated by tasks and activities that they find interesting or relevant to their lives. Try to find ways to make learning interactive and hands-on, and encourage your child to explore their own interests and passions. This includes incorporating play and fun into learning to make it more engaging and enjoyable.
  • Model Self-Motivation: Children learn by example, so it’s important to model self-motivation yourself. Set your own goals and work towards them, and let your child see you persisting in the face of setbacks. By modeling self-motivation, you can show your child the value of hard work and dedication.
  • Provide Opportunities for Success: Providing opportunities for your child to experience success can also encourage self-motivation. Look for ways to help your child build skills and experience success, whether it’s through sports, music, or other activities. Celebrate their achievements and help them see the value of their hard work.
  • Foster a Love of Learning: Fostering a love of learning can also encourage self-motivation. Encourage your child to explore new interests and ideas, and help them see the joy of learning. By fostering a love of learning, you can help your child develop a sense of curiosity and motivation that will serve them well throughout their life.
  • Establish Focused Objectives: Students are more likely to be effective when they’re given focused and achievable goals verses pursuing ones that are hazy or ambiguous. For example, it’s best to split up a presentation’s material and determine who will talk on which themes, for how long, and with how many visual aids rather than saying, “Let’s all work together and make our presentations in 10 days.” Also, motivating children to keep going by helping them feel like they’re getting better with a subject or skill, and celebrating that, is a win-win.

One proven method to self-motivate your children or students is to challenge them to reach their potential by developing and setting SMART goals with them. These objectives are defined as “Specific, Measurable, Agreed-Upon, Relevant, and Time-Bound.” Check in with them as the month progresses to see how they’re doing and to be available to help them if they have any difficulties. If your students meet their goal by the agreed-upon end date, acknowledge and praise their success and if desired, give them a reward. If they don’t reach their goal, offer encouragement and work with them to accomplish it. Have them understand how their goal(s) can still be achieved.

In summary, encouraging self-motivation in your child is a journey, not a destination. It requires dedication, patience, and perseverance. Fixating on the outcome, on success or failure, may drastically undermine motivation. With the right mindset and approach, you can help your child develop the self-motivation they need to achieve their dreams and succeed in life.

Use Effective Feedback to Motivate Students

Good teacher or parental feedback gives students detailed information about their present level of knowledge and performance in respect to learning objectives. Such feedback may also include guidance for achieving such objectives. Effective feedback practices include delivering it on time, avoiding negativity in tone, and emphasizing key elements of students’ work and understanding. Students can also be motivated by frequent praise for small steps forward and encouragement to keep going.

The key elements of effective feedback are as follows:

  • Specific feedback is effective when it relates to learning goals.
  • Feedback informs students about their current state of knowledge and performance.
  • Feedback should incorporate suggestions for improvement in the future, rather than general remarks.
  • Feedback on quizzes and practice tests is helpful and can improve classroom performance.
  • Feedback given on time is more effective than feedback given afterwards.
  • Feedback should minimize negativity and focus on significant aspects of student work and understanding, rather than details that are less relevant to learning goals.
  • Praise and encouragement can motivate students to persist and continue practicing a new skill.
  • Praise following small degrees of improvement can motivate students to continue with learning a new skill.

Resources for Learning and Teaching Self-Motivation

(All files are in PDF format unless otherwise indicated.)

Other Resources for Learning and Teaching Self-Motivation

Motivational Activities to Encourage Children to Learn, Study and Succeed

Motivating children to learn, study and succeed is an important part of any parent or teacher’s job. It can be difficult to come up with activities that will keep children engaged and motivated – but there are plenty of fun ideas that you can use. These activities and games are fun, easy to implement, and effective in enhancing motivation and learning outcomes.

Vision Board: One of the most effective motivation training activities is the creation of a vision board. A vision board is a tool that helps individuals clarify their goals, aspirations and visualize their dreams. It is created using images, words, phrases and affirmations that inspire and motivate your students or children. Vision board creation can be a group activity or done individually. Creating a vision board can help you stay focused on your goals and keep you motivated. You can use a physical board or a digital one, depending on your preference.

The Game of Gratitude: Gratitude is an essential component of motivation and can help individuals maintain a positive outlook on life. The Game of Gratitude is a fun and effective game for motivation training that involves reflecting on things that you are grateful for. In this game, individuals take turns sharing something that they are grateful for, and other participants express their gratitude for the person sharing. This game can help individuals cultivate a more positive and grateful mindset, which can lead to improved motivation and productivity.

The Scavenger Hunt: The scavenger hunt is a fun and engaging activity that can help boost children’s motivation. Create a list of items to find, and set a time limit. This game can be played with a few or a group of friends. It can help improve problem-solving skills, increase creativity, and improve motivation.

Puzzle Challenge: Puzzle challenges are an effective way to boost motivation by providing a fun and engaging way to improve problem-solving skills. These challenges can be completed individually or in groups and can include a variety of puzzle types, such as jigsaw puzzles, memory puzzles, word puzzles, and logic puzzles. The act of completing a puzzle can provide a sense of accomplishment, which can boost motivation levels.

Open-Ended Questions: Asking open-ended questions is a great way to encourage children to think critically and express their thoughts and ideas. Open-ended questions can help children explore new ideas, solve problems, and think creatively. Open-ended questions do not have a right or wrong answer, which encourages children to think outside the box and explore different possibilities. Open-ended questions encourage children to express their ideas and opinions, which can boost their confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, doing this can help children become more engaged in the learning process and develop a love for learning. Examples of open-ended questions are:

  • What do you think would happen if…?
  • Why do you think that…?
  • How would you solve this problem…?
  • What do you consider the best answer to this problem…?
  • Can you think of any other ways to…?

Switch Roles: Switching roles can be a fun and effective way to motivate children and encourage them to learn. When children are given the opportunity to take on new roles and responsibilities, they can develop their leadership and problem-solving skills. Switching roles can also help children understand and appreciate the perspectives of others. Switching roles can have many benefits for children. It can help them develop their leadership and problem-solving skills. It can also help children understand and appreciate the perspectives of others. Additionally, switching roles can provide a fun and engaging way for children to learn and explore new ideas. Here are some ideas for switching roles that parents and educators can use to motivate children and encourage them to learn:

  • Role-playing activities: Role-playing activities can be a fun way for children to explore new ideas and develop their problem-solving skills. For example, children can take on the roles of different historical figures or characters from their favorite books.
  • Job shadowing: Job shadowing can provide children with the opportunity to learn about different professions and develop their leadership skills. For example, children can shadow a teacher, a doctor, or a firefighter for a day.
  • Classroom leadership roles: Assigning classroom leadership roles, such as class monitor or classroom assistant, can help children develop their organizational and leadership skills.
  • Debate or discussion groups: Debate or discussion groups can provide children with the opportunity to explore different perspectives and develop their critical thinking and communication skills.

Field Trips: Field trips can be a fun and engaging way for children to learn and explore new ideas. When children are exposed to new environments and experiences, they can develop their curiosity and creativity. Field trips can also provide children with a hands-on learning experience that can enhance their understanding of different topics. They can provide a fun and engaging way for children to learn and explore new ideas. Field trips can also enhance children’s understanding of different topics and provide them with a hands-on learning experience. Additionally, field trips can help children develop their curiosity and creativity. Here are some ideas for field trips that we can use to motivate children and encourage them to learn:

  • Museums: Visiting museums can be a great way for children to learn about art, history, science, and other topics. Many museums offer educational programs and activities that are designed specifically for children.
  • Parks: Parks can provide children with the opportunity to explore nature and learn about the environment. They can also provide a fun and engaging way for children to get exercise and stay active.
  • Zoos and aquariums: Zoos and aquariums can provide children with the opportunity to learn about different animals and their habitats. Many zoos and aquariums also offer educational programs and activities that are designed specifically for children.
  • Historical sites: Visiting historical sites can provide children with the opportunity to learn about important events and figures from the past. They can also provide a fun and engaging way for children to learn about history.
  • Science centers: Science centers can provide children with the opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics in a fun and interactive way. Many science centers offer hands-on activities and exhibits that are designed specifically for children.

The activities and games listed above are just a few examples of the fun and effective ways to improve motivation. By using them, parents and educators make learning fun and engaging for children. By focus on the needs and interests of children, parents and educators can help children develop a love of learning that will serve them well throughout their lives.


Encouraging self-motivation in children is an ongoing process requiring patience and dedication. Motivation is a complex and multi-faceted concept, but understanding the different types of motivation and the factors that influence it is an important step in helping children to become engaged and successful learners. With strategies that support each student’s individual needs and preferences and a commitment to fostering intrinsic and measured extrinsic motivation, children can develop a lifelong love of learning, a sense of self-worth and a path to follow that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

We hope this article has provided you with valuable insights and strategies for motivating your students. By implementing these strategies and creating a culture of motivation in your classroom or home, you can help your students children achieve their full potential and set them up for success in their academic pursuits.

-love learning -your best ed lessons guide, Scott

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