Four Strategies to Motivate Students to Participate in Learning

Cynthia Mathews is Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership. Mathews is also a published author of education topics and a life-long learner who spends her leisure conducting professional development workshops and researching ideas for helping amotivated students to complete their classroom assignments. Mathews may be reached at


With so many students disengaged from schools for a myriad of reasons, trying to figure out how to keep students in school and engaged in learning is every teacher’s challenge. While many motivational strategies are available to promote student learning, not many of them seem to work for amotivated students. As a leaf of hope for students’ motivation to complete their class assignments, the four strategies below are offered yet are different from the typical strategies supportive of the mainstream students. The strategies below work best for the unmotivated, misunderstood, and timid students. The strategies entail employment of benchmark awareness, awareness of life’s purpose, discernment of health benefits, and awareness of self-image. While these ideas are unique and are the brainstorms of the author of this post, there is some educational research that supports the ideas.


An 8×5 benchmark board will help to keep students motivated to complete assignments since few students rarely not prefer to be left behind (Hutson 2015 ). Students having their names highlighted same or similarly as their peers is a major learning jumpstart for students and is the right ilk of competition that many students crave (Hutson 2015 ). Students do not necessarily compete with the other students yet compete with themselves to ensure their names are recognized favorably. The benchmark board idea needs to be large and wide and impressive enough to add bold and calligraphic font the names of students that excel. Adding to the benchmark board white lights that flicker will promote attention to the board. The teacher needs to draw audible attention to the board, adding congratulatory remarks (Bennet 2020 ), “I am proud that you have been maintaining your name on the benchmark board, as it reveals to me, your teacher, that you are a dedicated student who is aware of school’s purpose, which is to learn.” Any amount of timely and appropriate remark about the benchmark board and the student’s learning will boost student engagement in learning.


Depending on the teaching situation, a teacher may include a “show and tell” segment at the beginning of a virtual instruction. Before moving into the lesson for today, the teacher may bring attention to the benchmark board, congratulating students, highlighting the areas pertinent to instruction and student perseverance or whatever else is notable for school success. The teacher who is savvy in using technology and software programs can make a BIG deal about the benchmark board, applying the latest gadgets and animations that will usurp students’ attention. Even the teacher not familiar with the navigation of technology and glories may effect positive change to activate and maintain student engagement by accentuating the positive in the most animated and appropriately designed by the teacher. Not every glory must be a source of fireworks ( Student Data). With changes in classroom instruction due to the zeitgeist foisted upon education, a teacher must prepare for entertainment in ways that will capture students’ willingness to learn, and this urgent awareness is especially true for K to 12 instruction ( Student Data). Virtual instruction can be fun on the outset with a little creativity delivered on the teacher’s behalf.

Using Student Instructional Decision Making (2009) Achievement Data to Suppor


Students attend school yet few understand the reason for school, as its purpose may have never been connected to life (Sloan 202 ): “Why am I alive?” What am I supposed to do with my life?” How may I live a happy life?” While exploration of these questions may be a different set of teaching and learning goals, these questions are valid to the human heart and exhibit a yearning for student satisfaction; hence, life questions should be asked and answered (Sloan 2020 ). Teachers may easily help students understand why they as students should work diligently toward their goals. An introduction to career choices is one way to stimulate students’ minds for career growth. The constitutional declaration, “life, liberty, and happiness,” is a helpful declaration for students to discern that their living rights are supported through the promise of a legal and a monitored infrastructure that highlights, “You matter, and the constitution will support you.” Teachers may introduce students to career choices. Students may be given descriptions and monetary values of their possible career interests. When students discern a means for shaping the lifestyles they desire for themselves, they will venture toward taking the necessary steps in school to flourish toward their life goals. Because students are young in age, they need ideas to promote their innate interests in making career choices for a fulfilling life. The teacher needs to ensure that students understand that attending school and applying effort to succeed are necessary ingredients to finding purpose and meaning in life. Eventually, students will develop the compass necessary to guide their own lives because they would have been shown a pasture that is green and inviting and possible to live into. Enjoying a happy life is meant for every willing person. Thus, understanding “purpose” helps to make goals for students come to fruition.


The prevalence of obesity in children ages 2 to 19 is well over 13 million. This alarming number attests to the ignorance of many young people unaware of proper nutrient and its ultimate health issues. Many students do not realize the eventual danger of consuming unhealthy products, such as colas and burgers and chips and cookies and saturated fats and processed foods—potato salad, turkey dressing, fried foods, ice cream and other unhealthy foods. Students’ unawareness of these potentially poisons bring about health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease ( CDC Guidelines). While young children may not exhibit health problematic symptoms at an early age, they most likely will exhibit these symptoms at a later age, and these health issues may compromise the successful life styles students may have set for themselves. Being able to work productively and happily require a significant stance of health awareness. Once becoming ill or incapacitated due to health issues students may inadvertently impede their career growth—much too soon. Research reveals that most—not all—states require health education in all public schools, and state laws have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex (CDC Guidelines ); yet, placing this important responsibility only on health teachers is unsound and is underrepresented, as studying the importance of health is a continuum and is every teacher’s responsibility to help build a community of students that understand the value of food and its adverse effects of improper eating. Starting early—kindergarten and beyond—teaching students the value of healthy eating will help curtail obesity and a host of other health problems. Thus, if every teacher, regardless of subject taught, would highlight the urgency of proper eating, many students would be spared the chronic problems of a potentially sufferable, health possibility, and because students look good and feel well, they may be better inspired to complete their class assignments than they would be if they did not feel good about their image or their poor eating habits.


Likewise, as health awareness is important, so is image awareness important. The negative manner a student may be perceived by teachers may potentially thwart the proximity necessary for teachers to endure while helping some unkempt students learn. While this rationale may be difficult to hear or accept, as fallible human beings, people understand that many other people preclude a presence that is not appealing to them. An unattractive image may be obesity, poor posture, belligerent attitude, untidiness, apathy, poor language acquisition (Fitzpatrick 2020 ). Some teachers prefer to teach students similar to their own personas, unintentionally or not. Their neglecting those students who do not mirror their same backgrounds or conversations is prevalent ( Fitzpatrick 2020). While teachers may camouflage their true feelings toward students they perceive as unworthy of their teacher prowess, they nevertheless, hold such negative feelings about some students, thereby not supporting an education of image enhancement that could easily alter negative conditions. Rectifying a student’s poor image may be aided through proper education. For example, the obesity issue may be enhanced with continual feeding of proper nutrition and its health reasons for not complying: Similarly, all other atrocious intents that some teachers may hold against students, may also be conquered through appropriate education, and where such image factors may not be easily remedied, there is the offered virtue of kindness or understanding. A person’s image is important to society—education, intimate relationships, careers, and individual self-esteem. Students should be aware, therefore, as examples, that hanging T-shirt, saggy pants, unattended hygiene, aggressive and inappropriate behaviors are not welcomed by many educators and should be recognized and adjusted in order to invite teacher proximity. Then students will receive the fair opportunity of proximity in order to be taught the pertinent lessons to develop cognitively. By teaching the importance of self-image, teachers may help solidify the idea that students should project a positive, healthy self-image to be invited into the space for learning taught by those persons who teach. (Student Appearance and Academic Judgments)


Learning strategies are important to understand in order to teach a diverse student body. Benchmark boards are useful in promoting student participation. Albeit in-face-classroom-instruction or virtual-learning may be the norm, benchmark boards are powerful tools in motivating students to complete class assignments. Understanding the purpose of living and realizing how to make career choices to make a good life are important lessons for teachers to teach students. 👌🏽

References Highlighted in Context





Published by cynthiamathews

I'm an innovative spirit, one who seeks new and practical ways to learn about life. I enjoy exploring innovative styles to motivate people to persevere in a challenging world. Having a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Curriculum & Instruction, I am inspired to maintain a life long learning experience that will allow me to share my knowledge with others. My expertise includes detecting apathy in individuals and prescribing ways to motivate them to be their best. To initiate this endeavor, I create and conduct personal and professional development programs. I write briefs and pamphlets and instructional guides to inspire, and I speak--upon request--to those who need a reminder of their inner excellence. My blog's main focus is to document my research on motivation and curriculum instruction and to share with subscribers the understanding, the ideas, and the strategies that result from my research. I am a native of Alabama, a teacher, and an author. I look forward to learning with you.