How are students motivated if behavior is not part of the grade?

We are up to the fifth question of last week’s #mschat and this one deals with motivation. The question of motivating students is another one that is near and dear to my heart and I was pretty excited when I found out it was going to be part of the #mschat. Now that I am a few days removed from the conversation I’ve had a chance to think about what I should have been talking about and writing. I definitely missed many opportunities to talk about motivation in a way that could help other teachers in the chat. One of  the things I notice about Twitter chats is that there are so many great side conversations that get going you often lose your train of thought with the question at hand. I sometimes wish that I could go back in time and have a do-over so I can get my thoughts clearly articulated in 140 characters or less (usually impossible since I am often quite long winded as any of my colleagues would tell you…. I could rival John Kerry in some instances…. but I digress).

One thing I noticed by this point in the chat is that many participants were leaning heavily on the conversations from earlier on and blending some of their thoughts together. Many people were echoing a sentiment that by removing grading it becomes motivation. It was pretty obvious that many people were still focused on the previous question and not looking at this question as a separate issue. The reality of teaching is that while removing grading might improve motivation, it actually fits into a larger piece of pedagogy that revolves around ways of developing motivation in a classroom. There are three aspects of motivation that I learned about in my career that work hand in hand with each other. They are:

  • Personal Relationship Building
  • Class Climate
  • Expectations

Most of what people were talking about fell into one of these three categories. I’m kicking myself today that I didn’t bring all three up in the chat but I did have a moment when I mentioned:

“If the teacher does a good job of creating a space where student WANT to come,motivation becomes intrinsic by student led questioning”

In this statement I was getting at the need to create a class climate that is conducive to learning. A space where students want to come back to tomorrow and where they are open to the idea of learning. By doing this you are creating a space where intrinsic motivation is embraced and expected.

In regards to building personal relationships, it was great to see @kiplingEric nailed it on the head when he mentioned that “students need to have someone (the teacher!) in their corner fighting for them and the will work their tails off for you…@nyrangerfan42 mentioned a different aspect of building student relationships and class climate creation by saying, “and get them hooked, show your passion, find their passion – it’s enough to engage any student!” These two got it and reminded me of my education on the subject. I just wish I had remembered it during the chat itself. Oh well, there is always next time…

In regards to expectations @blocht574 talked about “Motivated by the learning itself! It has to be relevant and rigorous for them but we naturally want to learn!” This comes from the teacher setting the tone and expectations that learning is what is going on here. It will be hard, fun, tough, confusing, rewarding and will serve to build students’ innate curiosity for everything in the world. It goes back to the first comment in the chat on question 5. It is once again from our moderator @garnet_hillman. A5 Success motivates. When students are given challenging appropriate practice and assessments, success and motivation abound. #mschat”. While I agree that success motivates, I think she missed the fact that you need to be motivated to achieve success. It is finding that motivation to reach that first success is what many teachers find challenging. She is certainly correct in when she mentioned that creating the right mix of challenging work and appropriate practice (see expectations) is one of the three essential aspects to achieving a motivated class.

Overall it seemed that we were all nibbling at the corners of true motivation in the classroom but none of us really hit the bullseye. This is one of the reasons why I love #mschat and how going back through them later on with a fresh set of eyes and some perspective can really inspire my thinking about my practice and craft. I find that I’m usually missing some key pieces of insight that someone else mentioned that I didn’t see in the moment. I find that I’ve made mistakes in my judgement and had my perspective challenged by someone else. This is all supremely important for me to be a better teacher today than I was yesterday.

As @mrgranito said,

Teachers need to be the inspiration”.

It is our responsibility to reach out and build relationships founded on trust, respect, and admiration for learning. It is our responsibility to create a classroom where students feel safe, respected, and admired for their effort. It is our responsibility to set the tone of work ethic in our classroom so students understand that effort is directly connected to achievement.


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