A Teacher’s Guide to Motivation

How to keep your students motivated in a virtual environment

What is motivation?

In psychology, it is defined as the desire to act in service of a goal. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining one’s objectives—and research shows that people can influence their own levels of motivation and self-control. However, from education perspective, it’s a bit different, for as long as a learner chooses goals and exerts a certain amount of effort to achieve them, he/she is, by definition, motivated.

Before we answer this question, we have to know that there are many types of motivation, the broadest types are extrinsicand intrinsic motivation.

When you read a book because you enjoy reading or have interest in, it is called intrinsic motivation, while extrinsic motivation is when you read it because your teacher/parent told you to do so in order to be praised/awarded.

The first step to know what triggers your motivation is by asking yourself this question:

Are you motivated when there’s a reward/praise involved, or when you do something you enjoy?

Knowing your type of motivation gives you an idea about what you need to do to keep going and consequently you’ll be able to motivate your students.

What motivates your learners?

One of the most difficult aspects of becoming a teacheris knowing how to motivate your learners. It is also one of the most important. Learners who are not motivated will not learn effectively. They won’t retain information and they may even lose interest in participating in activities or tasks assigned to them.

As COVID 19 Pandemic has forced most schools in many countries to take their teaching online, motivating learners is now harder to achieve than ever, which makes the learning process more challenging.

Nevertheless, let’s look at the half-full part of the glass. In e-learning, engagement occurs when the learner fully and voluntarily accepts educational content and can control the pace and flow of learning accordingly for his/her needs and desires. Having the learner in a flow state induces the effectiveness of each activity achieving higher levels of understanding and communication. When learners lose themselves in learning, they can easily overcome challenges, accomplish tasks and master skills. This will create a motivational boost in their learning journey

What’s a flow state?

Flow is an optimal psychological state that people experience when engaged in an activity that is both appropriately challenging to one’s skill level, often resulting in immersion and concentrated focus on a task. This can result in deep learning and high levels of personal and work satisfaction.

My years of experience and research have helped me realize that the following tips and strategies are the best for learners to reach flow state and induce motivation:

5 tips to get your learners to flow state

  1. Set achievable and clear goals
  2. Create tasks that your learners find intrinsically rewarding.
  3. Provide the right scaffolding
  4. Give your learners “sense of control” of their learning process.
  5. Provide immediate and Unambiguous Feedback.

Creative student centered activities to put them in flow state

6 Strategies to motivate your learners in a virtual learning environment

1- Communication 

  • Create a positive and safe space to Support your learners by answering their questions at fixed timings every day on a blog/discussion room.
  • Post announcements and encourage students to comment and share their opinions and ideas

2- Freedom of choice

By providing them with various resources, activities and the freedom to choose their partners in projects, Students will own their learning process and by owning it, intrinsic motivation is successfully achieved.

3- The right resources

The resources you choose for a certain lesson should be:

  • aligned with the lesson’s objectives
  • suitable for your learners’ levels and skills
  • Challenging enough to avoid boredom.

4- Balanced tasks

A balanced task should be realistic, related to the topic and achievable. It should also develop the learners’ skills and enhance their points of weaknesses.

One of the most enjoyable tasks is the one based on gamification, as well as other forms of immersive learning ; such as role play, simulation and problem solving. As long as the learning resource is designed to have the appropriate levels of challenge built into it, learners will be interested.

There are many educational websites/apps that can achieve this, such as  Socrative and mindcraft Edu that can be extremely motivational for learners, as they create challenges for different skills and interests.

5- Feedback, Feedforward

Show your learners their points of strength before commenting on weaknesses (Feedback), then provide a clear plan to change the weaknesses to strengths.(Feedforward) . This can be done through many channels of communication, such as private messages or e-mails. Padlet is a creative tool to give group feedback and feedforward too.

6- Rewarding

A rewarding system contributes in raising your learners’ confidence and satisfaction. It can be as simple as a shout out in the discussion room or an announcement on the platform used with your learners. e-badges and e-certificates goes a long way especially with young learners. From my personal experience, I find ClassDojo one of the best apps for rewarding, as it connects teachers with learners and parents, gives them funny avatars and you can totally customize the rewarding system by giving or taking away badges depending on the learners’ behavior.

Having said that, If your lesson is made interesting and enjoyable enough (in class or online), you won’t have to work too hard to encourage learners to actively engage, they will do so naturally because they will want to rise to the challenge, and succeed because this is the only goal they’ll see. But also bear in mind that to get things done every day with quality and precision, motivation is one of the tools that can help you start, but there are other essential tools to keep you going the whole year, such as persistence, determination and commitment to attain the success you seek.

Motivation is what gets you started. Commitment is what keeps you going– Jim Rohn

Published by Israa Osman

With over 12 years of teaching experience, having taught students in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Essraa holds a TEFL and a diploma in teacher training from London Teacher training College, Pathways course from IH London (CELTA equivalent) and CET (Cambridge English Teaching course). Also having 3 years of teacher training experience with reputable institutes, such as Emkan education, Cambridge international assessment and MISK. Essraa’s extensive experience teaching students of diverse backgrounds in many countries has helped develop her empathetic approach to teaching. She is currently the founder of Teach-O-Gen

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