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    Motivation and Learning

    How Do I Motivate Students?

    As a teacher, it is essential that you keep your students motivated. Tutors have also been through the educational system as pupils and know the importance of an enjoyable and rewarding educational experience. You may have known this all your life, or it may have become clearer later, when you started tutoring. Regardless of your own experience, motivating your students will always be one of your most important targets.

    All students show improved motivation when they understand the reason why they are doing something, especially if they can see a direct positive outcome from studying. It is sometimes important for students to see the bigger picture. If a student must study a topic which he/she finds difficult, for instance to achieve a career aspiration, it can be a good idea to highlight the direct applications and pragmatic uses of this subject in a future professional context. Not everyone likes to study for the sake of studying; often, allowing students to see direct benefits motivates them to study. This provides a positive feed back and sets a goal; the more they understand, the more they can see the benefits, the more they want to learn.

    It might not be so straight forward with younger students, as they may not have a specific idea of what they want to do later on in life. This being said, personalities form themselves very early on, and it can be a good idea to show the benefits of studying certain subjects. Let them know early, no matter what job they aspire to do, almost all jobs will make you sit some sort of entrance exams, usually covering some basic mathematics and English skills. Many subjects overlap, doctors need to be good with sciences, scientists need a good foundation in Maths, Biologist need a good understanding of statistics, a professional translator really requires more than just two languages, Computer related jobs often requires good mathematics and logic skills). For younger students, immediate benefits, and short term goals provide a much better motivation mechanism. Fun, games, and laughter often work as good tools for teaching children; however they are never wasted on adults!

    Motivation and Relevance

    Studying has to be relevant to be motivating; creating this relevant link is part of the tutor’s job. Think of a student finding maths de-motivating because it’s “too hard” or “it’s useless in real life”. Yet at lunch time, he likes to go to the gambling shop and places a few bets. He works out the odds in just a few seconds, yet when it comes to doing percentages and fraction in lessons, he fails miserably. The problem is not that this student finds maths “too hard”, but rather that he cannot see the relevance and thus finds it boring. A bored mind is easily distracted, and a distracted mind finds everything hard: have you ever tried to read a book and watch the TV at the same time? It’s not easy, and the activity that requires the least effort but most fun is usually easier to focus on and understand. So try and adapt your lessons to be as relevant as possible to each pupil. Make your tuition easy to understand, and make it enjoyable.

    Motivation and Terminology

    Many academic subjects use a terminology: although there’s often no need to use complex words to understand these subjects, specific keywords are usually required by examiners. Academics within their own field often like to make things seem more complicated than they actually are, although this is not always compatible with good teaching practice. Try not to confuse new pupils straight away by throwing in too many complicated words; you are there to pass on your knowledge, not to show it off, however tempting it can be to “sound competent”. As the subject becomes more familiar, you can then link the concepts to the terminology required by the examiners. Later, show that the use of these keywords is important when answering exam papers, and indicates through example what the examiners are expecting.

    - Understanding 1st makes it easy to learn,
    - Making it easy to learn makes it enjoyable,
    - Enjoyable lessons are motivational
    - Motivational lessons make the pupils want to learn further

    Avoid De-Motivation

    There is nothing more de-motivating than consistently being incorrect and failing at a subject. Avoid anything that can negatively affect the learning process. If your student is giving incorrect answers, it is best to avoid asking them similar questions or insisting heavily on a topic which they are likely to get wrong. You can make the questions slightly easier and lead them in the right direction by giving them clues. It is also a good indication on what topics need more work. These measures will have a more positive effect on your students that anything that will highlight their failure.

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