Why the Need for Motivating Students is so Great

Students will not do any work unless they derive some benefit from the work they  do. We are the same. Students need to be given a reason why they should do the work.  Teachers have learned to motivate themselves to do even the disagreeable jobs that create a bright future for them and provide a learning environment for them. They must also  create a great learning environment where everyone in the classroom is fully motivated, including the teacher.

When students are motivated, they look forward to coming to class, not just to see the teacher, but to interact with the teacher and fellow students, to test out their ideas, to build bridges that lead to the understanding of ideas and the creation of new ones. Motivation has great value in the classroom and we cannot neglect it, but instead nourish any possibility for motivating the student, so that he or she can succeed in the complex world in which we live.           

The focus of teaching in the classroom should be the student, not the material being taught. A teacher asked me, during my first year of teaching, “What do you teach?” I told him I taught English. He told me, “I teach students.” I never forgot his wise words. Good teachers want the students to be able to do what they are being taught to do. They also expect their students to love the subject that is being taught. If they don’t, the teacher needs to motivate them to love the subject. Teaching imparts information to the student, but motivation comes prior to teaching, and it is motivation which empowers the student to have a voracious appetite, and love for learning, that will allow him or her to seek information on their own.           

Someone once said, “They don’t care what you know unless they know that you care.” Motivate your students well, and they will know that you care. Too many teachers see teaching as an opportunity to show their students how much they know. I told my students, on the first day of class, that they were not in class to impress me, but to impress themselves and the students around them with their brilliance. “I know you all have brains. You can’t hide that from me. Now show us that you can use them.”           

The primary reason for students to attend college is to learn how to learn. They need to learn how to learn according to the principles of Physics, History, Psychology, Mathematics, etc. Each field confronts its problems with a different way of thinking, a different focus. Students, in learning the methods of learning in each discipline of study, are able to postulate ideas that conform to the ways of thinking in each discipline they study. This is why fields of study are called disciplines. In studying a subject you are disciplined to think according to the thinking done and created by the experts in each respective field. This prepares students for the world they are about to enter. They can better contribute to the world if they play by the rules of each of the disciplines they study. College courses are meant to prepare students to be able to learn how to learn. Then they are able to learn anything. At least, that is what the inherent goal is, or should be, of any well prepared college graduate. The properly motivated student will not only want to learn, he will love to learn and thrive on knowledge. 

What Motivation is Not 

Telling a student that he or she must do well in the course because this course is a requirement for graduation will not necessarily motivate the student. Such a statement can result in mediocre class work and class participation. A student can be influenced to do work grudgingly in this way, but he may not necessarily be motivated to learn more about the subject he is learning. After all, it is only a required course.