By Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Young children develop attitudes
toward learning from the significant others in their lives. If parents
or other adults nurture a child's self-confidence and curiosity, and
provide resources that invite exploration, they instill the message
that learning is useful and fun. Children, who observe adults being
enthusiastic toward education and coping positively with setbacks,
will likely follow their adult role models and pursue knowledge as
well as persevere when faced with failure.
Through school attendance, children develop beliefs about their abilities and
acquire skills to cope with new situations. A teacher's perceptions of how children
acquire information and their expectations for their students' academic success
can have a profound effect upon children's motivation. Educators need to believe
that their students can learn and challenge them to reach their potential.
Low-ability or disadvantaged children and students who have learning or attention
disorders must work hardest to succeed. Yet, they often have the least incentive
to do so, since high-ability students are the ones who receive the most positive
feedback. It is important to note that when children experience many failures,
their attitude toward learning often deteriorates. Although younger children
are likely to make an effort to succeed, older children may view trying and not
succeeding as more negative than making no effort at all.
How can educators foster motivation in children?
- Provide a caring, supportive
environment where children are respected and
feel a sense of belonging.
- Believe that every child
has the ability to learn.
- Involve children in
making classroom rules and consequences that
are clear and understandable to all.
children's strengths; do not dwell on their weaknesses.
- Get to know your students'
interests, talents, goals, and the way each learns
- Treat each child fairly;
exhibit no favoritism.
- Use consistent discipline
and maintain an organized, calm classroom that
is conducive to student concentration.
- Vary your
teaching methods and make the lessons interesting
and enjoyable. For example, play a game like "Jeopardy" to
review a unit or a form of Bingo
to learn new words.
- Network with other teachers
to plan and adapt lessons to meet the
- Define work in specific,
short-term goals that can help children associate
effort with success.
- Assist students
in seeing that failure is not usually due
of ability but to ineffective
- Teach children
helpful study and time management skills.
children understand that it is not always easy
proficiency in a subject;
it takes time and effort.
- Make expectations
clear and provide feedback and
work well done.
from offering nonspecific praise for
little effort (see
past article, Effective
- Never embarrass or ridicule
- Assign homework that
is specific to the educational needs of the child.
- Expect low-performing children
to accomplish achievable tasks.
- Enhance the status
of "doing one's best" and provide
group recognition for effort and/or excellence.
- Emphasize cooperation rather
then competition; support opportunities for students
to help one another.
- Assist children in dealing
with frustrations by helping them discover ways
to cope with problems.
- Provide the opportunity
for all children to lead a classroom activity.
- Avoid practices that discourage
student initiative. Instead of offering help
when none is requested
or giving the answer,
encourage thought and offer
suggestions of how to find a
- Use tangible rewards
sparingly. Keep in mind that they may
- Provide intangible
rewards for unusual student effort
or success. For example,
a child may receive
book to be read
to the class,
assist the librarian, lead
a class game, or eat lunch
- Remember that
many low-achieving students
deny the importance
of studying and stop
shame of having
tried and failed.
that when students refuse to begin
their work, or
may be doing
so to protect
past article, Understanding
a close working relationship
of children who are
ways to provide
their child acquire
good study habits
parents to assist
enough rest, eating
well and exercising
so that they
will be ready
learn at school
(see past article, Overweight
- Realize that no
teacher is perfect
or does everything
past article, Coping
With Stress --
Tips for Educators),
learn from your
doing your best.
Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com]. 2/04
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