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Motivating Students to learn

In the class room where a teacher responds with “wrong, idiot!” the “idiots” will quickly stop answering questions.
When the teacher gives no motivators or de-motivators at all can the teacher expect the students to become involved?
But what will encourage students to answer questions?

Rewards for trying are motivators.

Hertzberg’s two factor theorem. “There are motivators and there are de-motivators and they are not the same things.”

Rewards that Motivate   Punishments that DeMotivate

Proud parents
teacher pleased  
class mates impressed

write in more motivators

extra home work
negative peer pressure for high grade

write in more demotivators

   Theories of motivation Notes.

Perceptions determine motivation and motivation affects outcomes.

What can we change in a student? What can we not change? What should we work at changing?

Self concept = self esteem (Judgement of self worth) + self efficacy (judgement of capability)

How a student may view a parameter about themselves and tasks.

Task Effort

Task Difficulty










Part Doable









Suggest types of punishments. (humiliated, extra home work, -ve peer pressure for high grade ..
Suggest types of rewards. (Proud parents, teacher pleased, class mates impressed …



Dependency on others


Emotion of Stress



















Possible Outcomes

Stable & uncontrollable




Unstable & controllable



Part Success


Part Failure



Locus of control





Can change

Can control cause







Can not change

Cause is others


If the student sees responsibility as theirs they can control, otherwise they have no control.
Perception of own competence produces an expectation. What is effect of changing expectation?
How can expectation be changed?

self efficacy – belief in ones capability to organise and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments. High efficacy => higher motivation.

Where does interest a task feature in the above tables?

Seligman Causes of behaviour. Weiner factors attributed to success or failure








Locus of control


Those who believe negative situations are permanent are not likely to try.

Those who view problems as unalterable and do not likely to change. See themselves as unlikeable and not worth it. It is not theirs.

Success is due to luck or ease of task. Blames other factors outside themselves for failure, teacher did not explain it properly.


Realize most events are temporary and believe they can make a difference.

Like challenges and believe in their abilities

Success or failure within their control, credit success to effort and ability.

Control and predictability (the lack thereof is the principle cause of stress and unhappiness)

Each person’s “reality” places the boundary between the above differently and they have differing skill in predicting outcomes that may affect them. Failure of control and predictability causes stress.

(Jones & Jones, Comprehensive Class Room Management, pp56) states:- “ In discussing how to assist children in developing an optimistic view of life, Seligman (1995) stated that “the basis of optimism does not lie in positive phrases or images of victory, but in the way you think about causes”.”.

warm and fuzzies – making people like themselves and others, increasing their perception of worth, etc…………….

(Woolfolk “Educational Psychology”)  Piaget used the term disequilibrium as a way of demonstrating the creation of interest. Vygotsky used the Zone of Proximity as a way of restricting tasks to within the student’s capability.


Things that can motivate

Goal setting and planning – Goals focus effort, Goals:

Goals should be clear, specific, reasonable, moderately challenging, attainable.

Feedback can be negative, corrective or positive.

How can feedback affect task goal commitment?

Goal acceptance

Types of goals

Teacher efficacy – Teacher belief in student increases student success

Calm and safe environment

Belief in self and importance of tasks

Accurate feedback

A Positive relationship of those involved in goals increases individual effort and performance.

Management of the following for the good of all:

Relationship parameters: Power, order, authority, support (caring with order)

Feelings of protected by authority, Honesty, fair play, respecting rights of others, respect for property, respect for difference, democratic class rooms,

Developing a supportive learning environment,

Teaching social skills

Pearls of Wisdom.
To get someone to do something you must have them want to.
If you tell yourself a lie often enough it will become the truth.
People like what they are good at and are good at what they like.
Success is built in lots of small steps.
The easiest way to stand tall in this world is to stand on the shoulders of others.
To have a friend one must first be one for by being friends one has friends.
People like people who like them,
A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still
Failure to plan is a plan for failure
Those who can, DO.  Those who can not, do not try.
Nothing breeds success better than success itself.

Techniques of Persuasion (Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D).

Knowledge is power

The code of Reciprocity. Individuals feel obliged to repay in kind.

One good deed invites another. The concession of retreating to a smaller request after a the rejection of a large request has higher probability of acceptance than the request by itself.

Consistencey – the desire to be and appear consistent. By getting a student to agree to doing something increases the chances that the student will do that something.

Social validation – one fundamental way we decide what to do in a situation is to look at what others are doing. If many are doing it we will be more likely to do it.

Liking – People prefer  to say yes to those they like.

Authority – Compliance increases  significantly in the presence of authority. Symbols of authority such as a tie, a name badge, an emblem can make a big difference.

Scarcity – perceived scarcity increases perceived value, scarce information that is exclusive is more persuasive.

Motivating students to learn ( taken from )

Parents and teachers all around the globe are pulling their hair out trying to understand why students seem less and less interested in school and school work. It used to be that the parent’s job was simply to outfit the child for school and get him there and ensure that homework was neatly done. The teacher’s job was to present the information and guide the students through the exercises. Those do not seem to work anymore. Both teachers and parents have to constantly come up with new strategies to ensure good academic performance of the students. It seems that they even have to resort to bribes sometimes.

Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of understanding of what really motivates students. Motivation is a difficult concept to define or explain. Motivation is generally understood as what arouses and sustains a particular behaviour. However, it is agreed that, for school purposes at least, there are two types of motivation- the extrinsic motivation and the intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation usually derives from external rewards- prizes, grades, tokens and wanting to do better than others. This leads to students performing solely for these rewards or to avoid shame or embarrassment. Intrinsic motivation comes from within. When a student is driven to do well for his own self-satisfaction in developing a skill, then the learning is more meaningful and long-lasting.

Motivation is optimized when :

· The person engages in the task for his own reason rather than in response to external pressure.

· The task is of appropriate level of challenge.

· There is sufficient choice.

How can parents and teachers set up learning environments to optimize these conditions? The answer to this question is wide and varied. Specific strategies could depend on various cultures and environments. But the following general principles must be applied:

1. The pressure on the student must be minimized, for example, remove the competition or social comparison; revise the grading system.

2. Ensure that the task is of an appropriate level of challenge for the student’s age and ability level. If it is too easy the student will be bored and un-motivated. A level of difficulty above the student’s ability could lead to frustration and giving up.

3. The task should also be meaningful and relevant to the learner. Students often comment “Why do I have to learn about….. I’ll never use this when I grow up!” The aim of the task should be to improve or gain some skill rather than rote memorization of irrelevant facts.

4. Appropriate use of rewards. Use praise liberally. Reward for effort and improvement and not just for performance.

5. Provide choice. Students will be more motivated to engage in a task if they have some say in what the task is, how it is to be carried out and presented. The more controlling the teacher is the less motivated the learner will be.

6. The structure of the learning exercise affects the level of motivation. There must be clear instructions given . The student must be sure of what is expected of him. Guidelines on how the task is to be performed must be specific and well understood. Immediate and useful feedback are crucial. A promptly returned assignment with comments indicating where the student went wrong and how he could improve is much more useful than a paper with only a B or C grade on it.

7. A supportive environment is a must. Students,( or anyone for that matter) do not perform or think well when they feel invalidated or threatened. The rapport that parents and teachers develop with the student must be one of ease and comfort-an encouraging word or tone of voice, a hand on the shoulder. These may seem to be trivial but the impact on the learning is great.

In short, when students are treated well, respected, encouraged and the work has meaning high levels of motivation will automatically develop.

Written by Marilyn Atherley

Sumarised from (  Kelton Rhoads, PhD, University of Southern California.

Influence investigates the causes of human change--whether that change is a behavior, an attitude, or a belief. Inducing a change in behavior is called compliance. Inducing a change in attitude is called persuasion. Inducing a change in belief is called either education or propaganda--depending on your perspective.
Social influence is said to be employed by an agent or practitioner upon a target. The agent's message is called her advocacy. If your goal is to get your husband to stop overeating, you may seek compliance-- by getting him to stay out of the refrigerator--or you may influence him to internalize different eating habits, in which case he would be persuaded. You are the agent, your husband is the target, and your tactics or message would be your advocacy.

 Compliance is often a quick-fix solution to a social problem. Compliance doesn't require the target to agree with the advocacy--just simply perform the behavior.

 Persuasion attempts to win "the heart and mind" of the target. Thus persuasion must induce attitude change, which entails affective (emotion-based) change. Although persuasion is more difficult to induce, its effects last longer because the target actually accepts and internalizes the advocacy.

Education is the propagation of a set of beliefs, or Propaganda. We call it "education" if we already believe in it, and "propaganda" if we don't. Beliefs are things known or believed to be true, as opposed to attitudes, which are evaluations of objects that we think about. Beliefs are important precursors to both attitudes and behavior, but are often used or created after the fact to defend attitudes and behaviors we already own.

Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer, provides us with a taxonomy of levels of influence--the basis of the continuum presented below. Notice that upon examination, the continuum defies simple right-or-wrong categorization.

Continuum of Influence






Thought Control

Relationship & Exchange

Limited consensual relationship; logical thinking is encouraged.

Instruction & emotional manipulation which target can ignore.

An authority attempts to persuade the masses.

Authoritarian & hierarchical but also consensual & contractual.

Authoritarian, hierarchical, without target awareness, for indefinite time.


Infrequently deceptive if teacher has no agenda.

Selective information, sometimes deceptive.

Exaggeration, selective, may be deceptive.

Infrequently intentionally deceptive, often selective.



Instructional; indoctrination can occur when the teacher has an agenda.

Mild to heavy persuasion.

Heavy persuasion, compliance tactics.

Coercive compliance (punishment) condoned.

Unethical program of influence.


Productive & capable citizenry, actualization. Indoctrination, if an agenda exists.

Sale of product or service.

Political power & control.

A cohesive & effective group.

Perpetuation of the group for money or power.


 Its everywhere

Other web sites – search motivating students to learn.

Teaching tips index


Behavior Influence Techniques