Using the 9-Step Motivation Model

Using the 9-Step Student Motivation Model

Now that you’re familiar with the 9 Steps to Inspire Student Motivation, it’s time to put the theory into practice.

Helping your student become self-motivated is a process that takes time and patience. And as a parent or Learning Coach, you need to put in just as much effort as your student to make the process successful.

That’s because the model asks you to step back and let your student take control of his or her problem solving. You might have to change your normal listening and helping tactics, moving into a supportive role rather than steering the child toward his or her goals.

Below, we’ve revisited each of the steps in greater detail to offer you guidance on how to handle the process.

Breaking Groundallow your child to speak freely

It’s tempting to offer your advice when you sit down to discuss a problem with your student. After all, you want to help him or her come up with a solution. But the most important thing to remember is that developing intrinsic motivation means learning how to do something independently.

This step of the process involves dedicating yourself fully to listening. Listening not only solves problems but also improves relationships, shows your respect, and allows you to understand what your student thinks and feels.

So resist the urge to offer your feedback. Whether you say it aloud or simply think it, the phrase “How can I help you?” is much more effective than “You should….” according to teacher Julia Thompson in her article “The Facts About Motivating Students.” The goal is to encourage the student to identify and diagnose his or her own problems. It will also help you establish a more collaborative learning environment.

Narrowing the Focus neutrally restate your child’s thoughts and ideas to clarify and understand them.

The process of restating what your student has said naturally slows down the listening process, helping you become a more active listener. Try starting with a phrase such as:

“So what you’re saying is…”

One way to keep this process positive is to avoid calling the issues “problems.” One of our teachers, Mr. Plummer, explains that problems are “questions you just haven’t answered yet.”

Remember that this step focuses on the child’s ideas, so do not contribute your own. Ask him or her which goal he or she wants to focus on, and then let him or her decide.

Envisioning the End help your student summarize the end goal in a positive statement.

At this stage, your student is probably concentrating on the negatives. Suppose he or she wants to get a better grade by participating more in LiveLesson® sessions. In this case, his or her lack of motivation could stem from being too nervous to speak up or not knowing what to say.

That’s why your job is to encourage your student to focus on the ultimate goal. Helping him or her turn negative feelings into a realistic, positive statement can change his or her outlook.

Help your student create a summary statement that starts with “I want….” For example, “I want to enjoy and actively participate in my LiveLesson sessions.”

Make sure this issue is something your student is motivated to work on despite the obstacles. Here, the intrinsic reward could be improving grades.

Scaling the Issueidentify and define the impact of the issue on motivation.

With older students, this step can be as simple as rating the motivation impact on a scale of 1 to 10 and writing down what the chosen number means. On this scale, a “1” halts all motivation, while a “10” has no negative impact on motivation.

The important part about scaling is that it makes your student consider how feasible it is to accomplish the goal. Instead of viewing the issue as an impossible hurdle, your student will see that it’s manageable by assigning it a specific number.

If needed, adapt the scale to fit your student’s age and interests. Young children might prefer a scale that uses smiley faces and frowns. You can also simplify the scale to a range of 1 through 5 if that helps. Maybe your student would like to draw his or her own scale.

Before you move on to the next step, your student has to define what the number means, which will clarify his or her perception of the number.

Scaffolding write down your child’s ideas for solutions.

The goal of this step is to encourage your student to brainstorm different ways to solve the issue. You can start by asking the “miracle question.”

The miracle question is a technique for focusing on the present and future rather than on the past. Just ask your student to imagine a positive scenario.

“You feel happy and confident during your LiveLessons. What did you do to get there?” You can tell him or her that this change or miracle happened overnight. Ask your student to pinpoint what’s different about the situation when it has been solved. How does he or she feel? What does your student imagine him- or herself doing and thinking in the scenario?

By asking the miracle question, you help your student imagine what he or she wants to achieve and how to start working toward it today. This technique can help your student let go of past issues.

All you have to do is write down the ideas he or she comes up with. Record them all even if you don’t think one will work. This is because your student needs to learn that it’s okay to fail and try again—in fact, struggling is a predictable part of the learning process.

At the end, ask your student to choose the solution he or she thinks is best. Juggling multiple solutions can affect focus, so concentrate on one for the present. You can always return to this step and try other solutions later.


Cheerleading read the list of ideas aloud and offer encouragement.

This step is all about offering support, and it highlights the significance of your involvement.

Remind your student that he or she has done a lot of work to get to this point in the process. Be enthusiastic about reaching the next stage.

But don’t intervene—not even to offer constructive criticism. It defeats the purpose of encouraging intrinsic motivation; plus, it might not even be very helpful.

“When people are experts on a subject, or consider themselves experts, they’re more eager to hear negative feedback, while those novices are more likely to seek positive responses,” writes Alina Tugend in the New York Times, where she explains the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. If your student is new to this motivation model—or an intrinsic motivation novice—then he or she needs positive feedback. Once he or she gets better at the process and becomes more independent, you can offer tips if your student asks for advice.

Making a Plan of Actioncreate a list of concrete steps to take toward the solution.

Again, frame everything in a positive light at this stage. Help your student make a series of “I will…” statements, not ones beginning with “I won’t….” He or she should think about the actions needed to cause change, not a lack of action.

Most importantly, be specific. “Too often, our students only focus on the end point instead of considering the entire journey,” say writers Loriana Romano, Lisa Papa, and Elita Saulle in an article on “The key lesson for students is that determination, hard work, and reflective thought is needed in order to recognize an area for improvement and actively work to accomplish a change.”

In other words, this step is the point when your student needs to transform his or her plans and good intentions into action and determination. If step one is to review math flashcards every day, your student has to make it happen.

Visualizing instill confidence in your student and set a time to review his or her progress.

This is the final step before your student starts taking steps toward achieving the main goal. Making sure he or she feels confident is crucial to getting off to a strong start.

Supplement this positive reinforcement by helping your student develop a clear vision of reaching his or her goal. If he or she has doubts or can’t imagine achieving it, then you both need to revisit the previous steps to make some changes.

If your student would benefit from creating a visual rather than simply imagining his or her achievement, help him or her make a treasure map, which is a collage that captures intentions, desires, and goals.
Before getting started, write down the dates when you’ll sit down to discuss your student’s progress. Include how often the reviews will take place, as well as a projected date for the final review, when you’ll move to step nine.

Finding Seeds of Successdiscuss and evaluate what your student has achieved.

Start this review by returning to the scale that you and your student created in step 4. How does he or she rate his or her motivation level now?

This is an opportunity for your student to talk and reflect, so ask questions such as:

What did you do that worked?

Which steps do you enjoy?

What are you proud of?

What would you do if you had to repeat the process?

When you discuss the positives, emphasize that it was your student’s idea that succeeded. And if your student wants to continue working on the goal, return to step 6 and repeat the process by trying a new solution. Otherwise, you can go back to the beginning and set a new goal.

When you and your student work through the 9 steps, you should move at a comfortable pace. Working on goals and improving motivation can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming or stressful.

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