How to Motivate Your Students


Ah, the new academic year. Everyone’s back, new ones have arrived and many old faces are fresh-faced with hope for what could be achieved over the coming year.

Whilst those who’ve just made a transition to a new phase in their education journey are (hopefully) full of enthusiasm and valuing the opportunities before them, others may be feeling a little less enthused by their education, and can’t really see the point in it all.

While the popular “What’s the point?” question is one that even an NQT will be familiar with by the end of the first term, the main phrase on most individuals’ lips isn’t so much, “What’s the point?” as the much more ego-centric, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM?).

“The object of education is to prepare the young
to educate themselves throughout their lives.”

Robert M. Hutchins – President & Chancellor of the University of Chicago


For those hard to reach children who may be struggling with disillusionment about their education and/or themselves, as well as those who are having a temporary waver due to a change of personal or educational circumstances, getting them to value their education is a major step in getting them to invest something of themselves in it,
which can really be that light bulb moment for some.

How can you support the kids you teach to recognise the high-value offering that’s right there in the classroom?


Students become motivated to learn when they realise they can boost their chances of getting what they want (in the short-term and long-term) by engaging in the learning experience you’re about to offer them. As such, we need to be more explicit, and not assumptive, about the benefits of each learning experience for our students.

The easiest way in the current climate is by positioning their understanding of what they’ll get from their education very much within their WIIFM? context. And whilst a minority of our students may have an extremely healthy intrinsic motivation system, the majority will of course be more motivated by extrinsic factors,
including the two biggies which seem to drive this generation’s fixation on celebrity culture and internet media: social and economic benefits, both of which offer useful contexts for demonstrating the value of education.


Some kids will say they only come to school to hang out with their friends – and while we want them to learn and take away more than a social life, this illustrates that school is an important micro-community where kids can develop socially, learning skills of communication and punctuality, respect, tolerance and collaboration.

You can use students’ value of their relationships to persuade them to engage in their own growth and development. Show them, in as many ways as possible, how your lessons will enable them to experience more joy and happiness with their loved ones.


Whilst some entrepreneurs and a minority of others buck the trend, it’s no secret that the better the qualifications earned, the higher the earning bracket your current students are likely to access in the future. For those students coming towards the end of their time in high school who don’t value their current opportunities, some recent
research by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Commercial

Education Trust might put things into perspective.

Their research showed that wherever our youngsters are in the UK, and especially in London, without qualifications their chances of jobs and
financial success are limited, especially as they are now competing on an international playing field for employment:

For those with no school qualifications, unemployment can be as high as 40%, while even with five or more GCSE’s (grades A*-C) people will face unemployment rates are around 35% depending on where they live in the UK. Whilst good grades don’t give any
guarantees, they certainly give young people a valuable advantage in the highly competitive jobs market.

Sharing statistics like these can give some students the nudge they need to get on with their studies.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Benjamin Franklin – One of the Founding Fathers of the United States


Teens tend to see school as nothing more exciting than an early level in a video game, to be got through before they get to the exciting bit.

Drawing on this analogy, it’s important to remind teens that whilst on their computer games they can progress using cheats and short cuts, in the real world there are few cheats and short cuts to make progress. Now’s the time to be gathering their tool box of tricks, such as qualifications, which will empower and enable them to move
successfully through the levels and gain economic as well as social benefits in the game of life later.

For example, a student who expresses disillusionment about maths, but wants to work with animals, might try harder if they learn that a basic understanding of maths is needed to do the job they’re excited about.


During any extended tutor times over the beginning of term why not have your students discuss how the subjects they’re studying would be used in their dream job or how each subject could fit into their ambitions. To get them started, pair students up and give each pair a job card, e.g. hairdresser, dog groomer, engineer, etc. and ask
them to identify the subjects (and even topics within subjects) that will be needed for that career.

Good luck with the busy term ahead and remember that even if the kids don’t seem to value what you’re offering them now, everyone remembers their good teachers, so make sure you’re valuing yourself too.

That’s it from Unstoppable Schools for this month – we’ll be back in October discussing the importance of role models in the lives of your students.

Be Unstoppable!

Kevin Mincher

Creator of Unstoppable Schools & Unstoppable Teen


A quote to inspire you and your students

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

John Dewey


Additional Reading

The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton provides great insights into the challenges today’s young people will have to deal with when they
exit education and attempt to get a job. I highly recommend it because it’s packed with facts, statistics and suggestions you can use to motivate your students.


Copyright 2014, Unstoppable Schools Ltd.

All rights to the written elements of this article are reserved.