What’s the meaning?

One factor that determines the level of student motivation is whether or not a clear meaning has been defined. The meaning is the WHY. Often, I have ask students with low motivation why they come to school. Many stated that they were there because they were required to be there. These students didn’t find the work required of them in school meaningful and so their reaction was to give minimum effort. Everyone wants to know that their effort is going towards something that has meaning. When people believe that their work has meaning, they give extra effort. They pay close attention to detail. The thousands of people who volunteer their time to support a political campaign are motivated by something in which they find meaningful. As a result, their belief compels them to spread the message to gain support for their candidate.

As a leader you are challenged to help your students understand the meaning and grasp the purpose of school and how it can help them chase their vision of success. This is not easy as some students will require more of your efforts than others. It takes creativity, innovation, and a willingness to learn and evolve. Be a Meaning Maker! Here are a few things you can do to increase student motivation by helping them find the meaning in the work:

Promote student growth through feedback

Success is the best motivator of students. When students are successful and they know it was due to their own efforts, they feel great. They want to feel that feeling again and you can help them with feedback that is consistent, honest and filled with action steps.

Help them see the value

Not every student will be thrilled about learning your subject. Their thinking may be that they will never use your content in the “real world.” Engage their thinking in this area by showing them how the subject can be beneficial to them. As a Social Studies teacher, I often emphasized that it wasn’t the content that was important, it was how they acquired the knowledge and thought about it. As a result, their critical thinking skills increased which could benefit any student no matter what they wanted to do in life.

Maintain hope

All students need hope if they are going to continue doing something they don’t necessarily find meaningful. Monitor students closely to make sure they aren’t losing hope as they go through the ups and downs. Combat the negative thinking that may come after failure by emphasizing a growth mindset.

Allow students to make choices

Giving students the opportunity to make choices in the classroom gives them a sense of authority and it engages them to think. When it is their decision, they are more likely to follow through with good effort.

Emphasize the vision

Every school has a Vision Statement. The Vision Statement is the guiding light and it shows students where they are going. Make it a habit of referring to the Vision Statement. Use it especially during those times when students could use a boost of encouragement and motivation.


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