9 Steps to Inspire Student Motivation

4 min to read
9 Steps to Inspire Intrinsic Student Motivation

Whether your child is a perfectionist or a struggling procrastinator, it’s natural for him or her to lose motivation during school. As a parent or Learning Coach, you may find yourself intervening by saying things like this:

  • “Tell me what the problem is and I’ll help you figure it out.”
  • “I know you can do this!”
  • “You’ll feel better once you get something done.”

But sometimes that little pep talk just doesn’t seem to work. What do you do then?

The trouble with offering solutions and advice is that it doesn’t leave enough room for your student to figure it out for him- or herself. The solution is to balance the student’s own problem-solving abilities with your guidance, and you can do exactly that with the 9 Steps to Inspire Student Motivation.

The 9 Steps to Inspire Student Motivation is a research-based approach adapted from a motivational concept model developed by Paul Barnes, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Nebraska. The model is a solution-focused cycle of steps that can be repeated, meaning that this approach is an ongoing process you can use daily to help your student get on the track to success.

The surprising thing about the 9 Steps is that they don’t involve offering advice, giving instructions, or persuading the child to feel differently. In fact, the model warns parents to avoid these tactics. That’s because the model is designed to encourage students to identify, analyze, diagnose, and solve their own issues with your guidance and encouragement.

Here is a brief overview of the 9 Steps, highlighting both the child’s role and the parent’s role at each stage.

1. Breaking Ground

Child: Openly voice your concerns, speaking freely.

Listen without interrupting. Listen as closely and carefully as you can. Set no time limit on this step, and wait until the child is finished describing his or her specific concerns.

2. Narrow the Focus

Child: Choose one issue to focus on.

Restate what the child has said to make sure your understanding is clear. Do not add your own thoughts or ideas.

3. Envisioning the End

Child: Form a positive statement that summarizes the end goal: “I want …”

Help the child form the statement, and also offer positive encouragement.

4. Scaling the Issue

Child: Use a scale of 1 to 10 to determine how much the issue affects motivation. The “1” stands for something that halts all motivation, while the “10” is something that has no negative effect on motivation.

Assist the student in defining the scale, if need be. State what the number chosen by the student means so as to ensure that you both have a clear understanding.

5. Scaffolding

Child: Brainstorm as many ideas and solutions as possible to achieve the goal.

Say this to the child: “Imagine your situation after achieving your goal. What are some of the ways you could have gotten there?” Write down all of his or her ideas, but don’t suggest ways to improve them. Leaving room for the child to fail and try again is important to the learning process.

6. Cheerleading

Child: Clarify any ideas on the list, if need be.

Read back the list of solutions and offer encouragement to show your support and enthusiasm.

7. Plan of Action

Child: Choose the steps to take to achieve each solution: “I will…”

Help the child establish concrete actions for each solution, and list them in steps.

8. Visualize

Child: Picture your success.

Instill confidence in the child, celebrating the work he or she has done to get to this point. Set a specific date for when you will return to the 9-step cycle to review the child’s progress.

9. Seeds of Success

After using the previous steps to work on the issue for a set period of time, it’s time to move on to the stage of evaluation.

Explain what you did that worked.

Take a look at the scale from “Scaling the Issue” and praise your student for any positive improvement. Point out that his or her idea worked. Determine whether the child followed all of the steps and achieved the goal. Return to the list of solutions and continue the cycle if the child wants to improve more, or start all over to address a new issue.

Improving Intrinsic Student Motivation

The reason why this model is successful is that it focuses on building intrinsic motivation in your child. Intrinsic motivation occurs when your child enjoys a task and wants to succeed for the sake of doing well. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is any external incentive such as praise, treats, or other rewards that motivate the student to do well.

Developing intrinsic student motivation is important for the long term because it teaches students to be self-motivated, independent learners. If children rely on extrinsic motivation too much or for too long, they become dependent on rewards and never learn the value of doing their best.

Keep an eye out for our next post about the student motivation model for a more detailed discussion of the 9 Steps.

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