How to Motivate Reluctant Learners

How to Motivate Reluctant Learners

How to Motivate Reluctant Learners

How to Motivate Reluctant Learners


What we call "motivation" in school is really a decision students make to invest in our classrooms. It's our responsibility to show students the value of investment and guide them toward behaviors that will support learning.

In this guide, Robyn R. Jackson takes you step by step through the process of motivating reluctant learners--what great teachers do instead of relying on elaborate rewards systems or creative tricks to reach students who actively or passively resist investing themselves in the classroom. Here, you'll learn how to

• Identify the classroom investments to ask for by considering the motivated behaviors you most want to see and ensuring that what you're asking for is specific, meaningful, observable, realistic, worth the effort, and small.

• Create a classroom worth investing in by removing "demotivating" practice- and procedure-based barriers and giving students more opportunities for autonomy.

• Understand and address students' resistance and respond with instructional strategies that minimize perceived risk and maximize immediate benefits.

• Ask for and shape an investment by reaching out to students in a nonconfrontational way and providing a clear path toward motivated behavior.

• Create a motivation plan that's tailored to the students you teach and designed to be effective in the long run.


What we call “motivation” in school is really a decision students make to invest their currencies in our classrooms.

All of us have a portfolio of knowledge and skills we’ve accumulated through our various experiences. We might know the difference between a nine-iron and a driver and when to use each because we golf every weekend with our buddies. We might know how to cook a perfect roast chicken because our grandmother showed us the secret. We might be able to explain the latest developments in the financial markets or in Congress because we follow the news. We might be the life of the party because we have collected an array of funny jokes and anecdotes over the years.

What we know and can do makes us the people we are and also functions as a form of currency in various aspects of life. Knowing the difference between a nine-iron and a driver, for example, “buys” you social and athletic status among your golfing buddies. It makes you look like you know what you are doing, helps you play a better game of golf, and ensures that you won’t make a laughable mistake when it’s your turn to tee up. Knowing how to cook that perfect chicken “buys” you the envy of your friends, high praise from your family, and the satisfaction of good food done well. Keeping up with the latest news “buys” you small talk with your colleagues in the teachers’ lounge or with your fellow . . .

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