How to qualitatively increase the motivation of your students

A Short Guide to Being a Motivation Guard

A Short Guide to Being a Motivation Guard


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One of the main things that influence teaching and learning experience the most is motivation. It is hard to learn if you are not motivated enough. And for sure, it is much harder to teach if your students start lacking motivation and losing their rhythm. 

What are the reasons for losing motivation? What can be done to increase its level? What are the ways of keeping track of your student’s motivation? Today we will answer all of these questions.

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Motivation Killers

And for a start, we will look closer at the common factors which may be the reason for a decrease in motivation. 

Using Shame

First and foremost, the most awful and demotivating thing to do is to use shame as a way of dealing with mistakes and problems. This old-fashioned way of “explaining” what is good or bad, correct or incorrect has proved itself to be unproductive. 

So, nowadays’ teaching methodology insists on getting rid of shaming. Obvious as it may seem, shaming is not a rare practice even now, so it is worth mentioning here on the list.

Shaming is not only a humiliating and unpleasant experience, but it also doesn’t deal with the root of the problem. Shaming will never help with understanding why somebody is not successful enough, and this is exactly what we, as teachers, have to understand.

Getting Inadequate Rewards

It is also important to keep in mind that not all people can be driven by their inner interests for a very long time. Sometimes, one needs a system of encouragement and rewards that helps to boost their confidence in the goal over and over again. 

That is why, if you are working with grades, tests, or anything of the kind, you need to make sure that the amount of effort your student pays while doing the task, homework, or test is praised appropriately. 

Avoid giving home tasks that you are not going to check, tests that take too much time to do and give a ridiculously small amount of points, and so on. Make sure that all the intentions are praised enough, and students are actually motivated to complete the tasks in the best way possible.

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Implementing Competition Without Cooperation

It has already become common knowledge that implementing competition may be a successful practice in the classroom because students stay motivated by the results of their peers and want to keep up with the general pace of the group. 

However, competition may be a very tricky and even unhealthy thing to use without combining it with cooperation. 

The competitive atmosphere may both help to motivate people to a certain extent and reduce their level of self-confidence. It is crucial to distinguish healthy and unhealthy competition in the classroom.

According to John Shindler, in healthy competition: 

  1. The goal is fun.
  2. The competitive goal neither feels real nor is characterized that way.
  3. Growth and learning are as important as a final goal. This is also something that has been clearly verbalized.
  4. The competition doesn’t last too long, and the intense atmosphere has a short duration.
  5. All people, who take part in a competition, have a reasonable chance of winning.

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Unhealthy competitions, on the other hand, have the following signs:

  1. It feels real, and the division between “losers” and “winners” is important because it gets further development in students’ relationships.
  2. The goal or reward is real, and the most important thing is to get it.
  3. All the learning tasks seem to be means of winning the competition. The learning process loses its value.
  4. Competition implicitly or explicitly rewards only the advantaged students.
  5. You notice that students develop an increasingly competitive mindset which defines the whole atmosphere in the group.

As we can see, competition can be different, and it is not very hard to spot when it becomes a demotivating factor for some of your students. 

To avoid an unhealthy competition, teachers should use it in combination with cooperation to show that there are a lot of tasks that you can’t do all alone, and sometimes, if you feel blue about your studying, the best thing you can do is to work with your groupmate on an interesting project which may inspire you for further discoveries.

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Having Unrealistic Expectations

Having unrealistic expectations is something that a lot of teachers are guilty of. We always want to give our students as many useful and interesting tasks as possible. 

However, one more thing that we have to take into account is whether it is possible to complete the number of tasks we ask the students to; and whether the terms for completing the task are appropriate. 

Sometimes, work that you can’t possibly do on time can be a huge demotivational factor that provokes overwhelm and anxiety rather than interest.

Motivation Boosters

Well, what about increasing the motivation when you have spotted its loss? Let’s see.

Knowing What Matters From the Start

It is always a good idea to talk with students about the things that truly matter to them right from the start. 

  • What inspires them? 
  • What are their plans and ambitions? 
  • Why do they need the knowledge they are planning to obtain during the course? 

If you are working with students at school, it is similarly important to know what their hobbies are. Sometimes, that is an answer to the question of why they are not that motivated during your lessons. 

Knowing what is truly important for your students gives you a clear idea about the pace and direction of your studying. When it comes to the individual lesson, it may even influence the decision of whether you are both a perfect match for each other. 

Clarifying some core information about the people you are going to work with can prevent them from losing their motivation at some point because the way you conduct the course is simply more accurate thanks to that initial talk you had when you met.

Working on the Why-s

When it comes to questions, a lot of people percept having them in a negative way. So, it is important to deal with them often, regularly, and in detail. Understanding everything is a pretty good motivation to continue studying. So, never forget to leave enough space for the Q&A part.

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Encouraging Effort

As we have already mentioned, learning is not about outstanding results, good marks or easily reached goals. Usually, learning is about hard work and huge effort. One of the easiest ways to keep your students motivated during the most challenging times is to encourage the effort, praise every step and give a personal credit. 

Being noticed, supported, and believed in always gives a great deal of inspiration. 

How to Monitor the Motivation

So, what are the ways of getting to know how your students feel about their studying? What are the ways of understanding how motivated your students are? The key word here is communication which can be done in a couple of ways.

Warm-ups & Polls

Starting with a meme is a fun way to begin your lesson. However, it can also be extremely useful. 

For example, try asking your students to rate the feeling they had while doing the home task by using a funny picture like this: 

This simple and funny task gives you space for getting some details on why it is the 5th or 8th picture. As a result, it also gives you an opportunity to work through some possible problems in a friendly and positive way. 

If you think that memes are not serious enough, or you know that it’s not your student’s cup of tea, anything may go instead: emojis, polls, etc. Turning such discussions into a routine gives your students an understanding that the teacher cares, he or she is accessible and ready to help with any difficulties. Such an atmosphere for sure reduces the possibility of losing interest or feeling lost. 

Feedback Forms

Giving a feedback form with a set of questions that cover the peculiarities of your work once in, let’s say, three months may be unbelievably beneficial in terms of understanding the students’ impressions, hardships, and things they lack (if any). 

You may make forms either anonymous to let students speak without any concerns or signed if you are interested in their personal opinions more.

Regular Personal Communication

Another good idea would be to keep regular personal communication. There is no one and only way how to do it, but it is important to have this special time when you can discuss any possible problems personally.

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Final Lesson

Last but not least, a final lesson may become not only a good sum-up moment for you as a teacher but also a cute and inspiring tradition for the whole group. It is always a good idea to plan a special lesson at the end of the course where you can talk about the most difficult or the most interesting topics, favorite words, beloved memories, the funniest moments, and so much more. 

You can also use this time to ask your students to express what they are proud of the most, what is their biggest accomplishment, and tell them that so much more is coming. 


1. Competition…

2. Knowing what your students like…

3. Inadequate rewards kill motivation because…

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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