5 Tips on Developing Self-Motivation in Students

5 min to read
Middle school male student in a blue striped shirt taking notes while attending online school

Online school offers a learning environment that encourages students to become self-motivated, independent learners. Flexible daily schedules give students the ability to complete lessons at their own pace. However, with this flexibility comes the responsibility to stay self-motivated.  

As students advance through online school, they develop important self-reliance skills that will help them succeed in school and wherever their journey takes them next.   

But what happens when student motivation starts to wane, or your student hits a rough spot and loses interest in learning? How can online school teachers, parents, and Learning Coaches help students learn how to gain motivation for school? 

How to Motivate High School Students

It can be tough when your student isn’t motivated to learn. Researchers who analyzed studies on student motivation have found that teachers and parents influence student motivation by satisfying three psychological needs: competency, belonging, and autonomy. The analysis also found that students who are self-motivated are more likely to do better in school and have a better overall sense of well-being.  

Finding self-motivation for students is a key element in their success and happiness at school. Here are five tips to spark student motivation by tapping into the psychological drivers that help them become self-motivated learners.   

Youg elementary sudent reading a book against a green wall.

5 Ways to Develop Self-Motivation for Students

1. Self-Motivation Begins with Praising Effort.

Students can lose motivation if they aren’t grasping concepts or if they do poorly on assignments and tests. Educator and school psychologist, Allen Mendler, Ph.D., noted in his book, Motivating Students Who Don’t Care, that praising students when they fail is a good motivator.  

When grading tests and assignments, instead of just marking all the wrong answers, teachers should add notes of praise next to the right answers. And for parents, reinforcing all the right answers will go a long way to help your student feel competent. This helps students gain a sense of accomplishment, even though they got some questions wrong. Encouragement from teachers, parents, and Learning Coaches can help students to be more motivated in school and inspire them to do better next time.   

Parents and teachers should also separate effort from achievement. They can do this by praising students for putting in the effort and trying their best even if the outcome wasn’t the grade they wanted. Receiving recognition for their hard work will motivate students to continue putting in the work to achieve better results.   Parents especially can define what success looks like for their families; it might not always include getting straight As.  

2. Empower Students to Become Self-Motivated.

Students who take an active role in decisions and feel like their voice is being heard are more likely to stay motivated. If your student is attending online school, involve them in decisions like creating the daily school schedule, including their requests for downtime. Let them help design their learning space and make it their own. Discuss class choices together and let them choose their electives.   

Work together to develop school rules, expectations, and consequences. Offer choices to give them the confidence to make decisions on things that are important to them. This gives them a better sense of self and purpose, which are strong motivators.   

Also, when it comes to motivating high school students and middle school students, you can just ask them what motivates them! Older students often know what they need and what they are interested in. Ask your student what motivates them or ask them why they aren’t motivated. The answer may surprise you and inspire new ideas for you to help empower your student.  

3. How to Promote Self-Motivation in the Classroom: Make Learning Exciting!

To promote self-motivation in the classroom, make learning exciting! Students are engaged and motivated to learn when they are excited about a subject.  

Teachers and Learning Coaches can help bring lessons to life by scheduling field trips or doing other hands-on activities that are tied to the lesson.

Visit a museum, see a play, or attend a concert to build excitement and inspire students to learn. Encourage students to join a club or other extracurricular activity to give them a sense of belonging, which is a powerful motivator.

Find ways to inspire their natural curiosity. Make a rewards system to help encourage self-motivation for students to achieve mutually agreed-upon goals.     

4. Talk About Future Goals to Help Students Stay Motivated.

Setting future goals is a great way to gain motivation for school. Helping your student explore and identify potential careers will help them stay motivated by giving them goals to work toward. Encourage them to follow their passions. Make sure they know they have what it takes, giving them confidence in their abilities.  

For online high school students, encourage them to shadow, take a summer job, find an age-appropriate volunteer opportunity, or participate in internship programs.

5. Stay Connected with Your Self-Motivated Student.

It can be hard to watch students lose interest in their studies. Stay connected with your student by keeping the lines of communication open and showing you are there for them. Ask about their feelings and try to get to the root cause of their lack of student motivation. Ask for their feedback on their courses, content, and lessons.  

Another way to stay connected is to send them encouraging notes and emails. Cheer them on! Knowing they have someone in their corner can give them confidence and motivate them to achieve their goals.  

Youg elementary sudent working on her online assignments with a notebook and penciel during the school week.

Self-Motivation for Students in Online School

It’s important to monitor your student to ensure they are staying motivated and completing their online lessons. If your student begins to fall behind in school, you may want to consider getting them a tutor. You should also always consult your child’s teacher for advice and feedback.  

If it’s your first time switching to a virtual school like Connections Academy®, your student is probably adjusting to their flexible schedule, independent learning, and new teacher and classmates. Find other creative ways to motivate virtual school students and watch your student learn how to gain motivation for school in every grade! 

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