What does it look like when students are engaged with the lesson and motivated to participate in discussions and complete the required work? Students might raise their hands to answer questions and take notes. They are comfortable, but not so comfortable that they aren’t watching the teacher and glancing at the material on the board or computer screen. There are looks of confusion mixed with nods of understanding, which show involvement with the lesson.
What about the opposite situation? What happens with the unmotivated and unengaged students? Start with the work avoidance tactics. I can’t find a pencil. I’m out of paper. My computer is glitching. May I go to the bathroom? Then, the quiet but uninvolved students simply sit, staring out the windows, lowering their heads to the desk. When the teacher calls on them, these kids either don’t know what was asked or where the rest of the class is on the screen or in the book.
Teachers deal with both extremes every hour of the day. Kids are all different, and they are the magic of any classroom. The hopes and dreams for every student, the motivated and the unmotivated, are the same. Teachers want all of their students to become critical thinkers who will ultimately become lifelong learners.
What causes low motivation in students?
Many factors play into motivation for teachers. The same can be said for students. Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for the reasons behind low motivation and engagement in students:
Many lack faith in their own abilities, so they shut down before trying.
Family lives may be unstable and chaotic, making it difficult to let it all go at school.
Some students are demotivated by extrinsic rewards or even public praise. Know your kids!
Fatigue is a big problem. Often, parents don’t realize how late kids are awake at night on devices, but teachers notice the effects in the classroom.
Expectations that feel too high or too low can discourage students from participating.
Students may engage in power struggles about the quantity or quality of work. Remember that it’s only a power struggle if the adult allows it to happen.
Peer relationship issues and social pressures aren’t always left at the classroom door.
Low motivation can be a side effect of undiagnosed learning disabilities and mental health challenges.
Disinterested teachers and repetitive teaching methods are factors. Students are smart. They can see when teachers are also struggling with motivation. Everyone feels it from time to time. Recognize it and work together to find strategies that help both of you.