16 Ways to Motivate Anyone

29 03 2015

By Todd B Kashdan Ph.D. | Mar 26, 2015


Moving beyond the notion of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

Siblings punch each other. It is a moral imperative to determine that day’s victor. As welts begin to form, as bruises begin to darken, as blood drenches the carpet, at some point, parents must intervene. How do you motivate a child to act more kindly to their biological roommate?

Employees will perform exceptionally. And when they do, how will you reward them as a sign of appreciation? How can you reward them in a way that sustains their momentum?

The majority of books on leadershipparenting, and psychology divide motivation into two types: extrinsic and intrinsic. This is a simple bullet point that offers a lot of mileage. We can consider the content of goals and the reasons for pursuing goals. For instance, your goals might be driven by “extrinsic” goal content (financial success, appearing attractive to others, being known or admired by many people) or “intrinsic” goal content (being fulfilled and having a very meaningful life, having close and caring relationships with others).  In several studies, scientists have shown that people who prioritize intrinsic over extrinsic goal content experience greater well-being. If people feel that they are the author of their own lives, pursuing goals that derive from deeply held interests (intrinsic), they devote more effort to these pursuits and end up more successful. In contrast, people who feel they are being controlled, following the rules and obligations held by others (extrinsic), show less persistence in pursuing their goals.

All of this makes sense and is based on sound research. I am suggesting that it is time to move to the next level. It is time to appreciate the complexity of how to motivate human beings. Knowing what motivates others is essential to establishing and maintaining effective relationships. This is going to sound trivial and obvious but nearly every person is motivated by different needs, at varying degrees, and at different times. If we want to influence and persuade other people, we need to know how a person priortizes their needs. A point expressed by Stephen Covey in his bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own efforts. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.”

Mix these characters up, treat them all the same, and your influence is going to be unimpressive. The amount of pleasure and meaning that we experience in our lives can be traced to how effectively basic needs are satisfied. Reflect on these 3 questions for a moment.

1) What drives YOU to put in your best effort at work?

2) Would you work if you didn’t have to?

3) Is the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation enough to describe you or anyone else?

My guess is the answer to this last question is no. Deciding on whether to wake up at 6:30 A.M. for breakfast with two friendly and highly successful colleagues, my hope is that you could clarify the motives for going. A desire to form a deep connection? Curiosity about where the conversation might lead and what you could learn? An opportunity to showcase your creativity and intelligence? Don’t think of it as a battle between motives, instead, think of how you priortize them. Just as you can rank-order your motivation for waking up early to attend this social gathering, you can learn what needs your employee is trying to satisfy (that makes them tick), and how to get your kids attention.

In the pursuit of a rich, meaningful life, there is a growing body of science suggesting that our greatest values guide our behavior. Psychologist Steven Reiss argues that there are 16 core values/desires/motives. Knowing how we priortize them and how others do the same can explain a lot about why we do the things we do. More importantly, knowing how these 16 basic values are priortized can help us to motivate other people–whether we are interested in rewards or punishments. Here are the 16 in no particular order:


CURIOSITY – The desire for knowledge and experience.

ACCEPTANCE – The desire for inclusion.

ORDER – The desire for organization.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – The desire for the exercise of muscles.

HONOR – The desire to be loyal to one’s parents and heritage.

POWER – The desire to influence others.

INDEPENDENCE – The desire for self-reliance.

SOCIAL CONTACT – The desire for companionship.

FAMILY – The desire to raise one’s own children.

STATUS – The desire for social standing.

IDEALISM – The desire for social justice.

VENGEANCE – The desire to get even.

ROMANCE – The desire for intimate connection, sensuality, and sexuality.

EATING – The desire to consume food.

SAVING – The desire to collect things.

TRANQUILITY – The desire for emotional calm.

Just remember

  • People act in ways that express their values
  • Values predict behavior
  • People are not necessarily aware of their values
  • How we priortize values can change over time

If you truly want to motivate other people, learn about what motivates them. The values that describe someone best offer insight into the best way to mobilize their energy. Forego global, simple solutions.

To dig deeper, check out:

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin22, 280-287.

Reiss, S. (2004). Multifaceted nature of intrinsic motivation: The theory of 16 basic desires. Review of General Psychology8(3), 179-193.

Reiss, S., & Havercamp, S. (1996). The sensitivity theory of motivation: Implications for psychopathology. Behaviour Research and Therapy34, 621-632.

Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R., Deci, E., & Kasser, T. (2004). The independent effects of goal contents and motives on well-being: It’s both what you pursue and why you pursue it. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 475-486.


















Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a public speaker, psychologist, and professor of psychology and senior scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.  His new book, The upside of your dark side: Why being your whole self – not just your “good” self – drives success and fulfillment is available from Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Booksamillion , Powell’s or Indie Bound. If you’re interested in speaking engagements or workshops, go to: toddkashdan.com.

– See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/16_ways_to_motivate_anyone#sthash.jrDdu9Js.tVWA5Gw7.dpuf

What Motivates Teachers?

19 01 2015

| July 30, 2014 |

Teachers: George Cronin, Dawn Digsby, Todd Beard, and Karen North. (Katrina Schwartz)

A recent Gallup poll of 170,000 Americans — 10,000 of whom were teachers — found that teaching is the second most satisfying profession (after medicine). Ironically, the sameGallup poll found that in contrast to their overall happiness with their jobs, teachers often rate last or close to the bottom for workplace engagement and happiness.

“Of all the professions we studied in the U.S., teachers are the least likely to say that their opinions count and the least likely to say that their supervisor creates an open and sharing environment,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, at the Next New World Conference.

This is a troubling trend at a time when schools need to continue to attract high quality educators. “If the perception in our country is that teaching is not a great profession to go into, we certainly aren’t going to be encouraging really talented young people to be thinking about the profession of teaching,” Busteed said in an interview with Stephen Smith on the American RadioWorks podcast.

That will be especially problematic as baby boomer teachers begin to retire. “What our research reveals is an important nuance that teachers rate their lives overall very highly; they love their lives,” Busteed said. “They love their work. They love what they do in terms of helping encourage young people.”

But they often dislike their bosses, the policies they must abide by, the tests that govern their lives and the low pay and lack of respect often shown by other adults. “It’s a big opportunity to try and get this right across school systems, but also a tragedy in that all these people who otherwise would be off the charts with their performance if we could just improve their workplace environment,” Busteed said.

MindShift readers discussed openly what motivates them to keep teaching, as well as what changes they’d make to the system.

“I’m motivated by the curiosity of my students,” replied Lewis Marshall A. Elaine, in a Facebook call-out to teachers to weigh in. “Being able to collaborate with more teachers who possess these qualities would make my job better: professionalism, positivity, and competency.”

Teacher Dana Smith wrote: “The students are my motivation: love those crazy middle-schoolers! A better salary and being able to teach without headaches and heartaches from mandatory testing, nonsensical paperwork/computer work, and crazed administrators would make my job perfect.”

Vix Cee Kreidel wrote: “I am motivated to teach because I believe that every child deserves to have someone who believes in them. I love to watch the light bulb go off in a child as their eyes light up when they have an idea or ‘get’ something. Teaching would be easier if I got paid more to make up for all the things I buy for my classroom. Also if we were held accountable in other ways besides the test.”

We talked to educators from across the country, some at the recent ISTE conference, about what they love about their jobs and what they’d do to improve their work environment. Listen to their stories.

Can Schools Cultivate a Student’s Ability to Think Differently?

11 01 2015

by Luba Vangelova


Entrepreneurship is often associated with people who assume the risk of starting a business venture for financial gain. However, entrepreneurs exist in many forms: They may be writers, carpenters, computer programmers, school principals or fundraisers, to name just a few examples.

What they have in common is an “entrepreneurial mindset” that enables them to see opportunities for improvement, take initiative and collaborate with others to turn their ideas into action. Everyone is born with some propensity for entrepreneurship, which at its core is about solving problems creatively, according to Yong Zhao, a professor at the University of Oregon’s College of Education. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.”

Unfortunately, the current education system doesn’t support the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, Zhao says, because of its reliance on standards, tests and a prescribed curriculum, which are all fundamentally incompatible with entrepreneurial thinking. Studies have shown an inverse relationship between countries’ academic test scores and entrepreneurship levels, and between years of schooling and entrepreneurship levels.

“Students are treated like employees of a big company, who don’t bear the risk if the company fails,” he says. “They are paid with grades and are not treated as being responsible for their learning.”

Instead of building on existing education reform plans, such as Common Core, Zhao supports an altogether different education paradigm to prepare children to thrive in our rapidly changing world, which will put a premium on entrepreneurship in all fields of endeavor.

A mashup of democratic and project-based learning would enhance the characteristics that lie at the heart of the entrepreneurial mindset. Zhao envisions schools that combine three essential elements: a freedom-based, non-coercive environment (as can be found at England’s democratic Summerhill School); enhanced project-based learning opportunities (such as those offered at New Technology High in Napa, California); and interaction with the larger world (as practiced by a program that allows students at the Cherwell School in Oxford, England, to collaborate with students at the Gcato School in Eastern Cape, South Africa).

A democratic school such as Summerhill shifts the responsibility to the learner and honors the natural variety that exists among individuals. As long as the students follow the general rules of behavior (which they themselves have developed on an equal footing with the staff), they are free to spend their time as they choose, taking only the classes that interest them. Nurturing what interests and excites each child benefits both society and the individual, Zhao says — the world needs all kinds of talents and skills, and this method effectively harnesses each child’s intrinsic motivation to learn what makes sense for him or her.This extends to whatever is needed to achieve their goals: “When a child has a reason to learn, the basics will be sought after, rather than imposed,” Zhao wrote in his previous book, “World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.” “If they are true basics, they are hard to avoid.”

This also allows children to build on their strengths, which is what successful entrepreneurs do, he says, instead of wasting their efforts to try and become like everyone else. “We should give all children confidence, and an alternative space to find something to be good at,” he says. “We overemphasize the deficits of children, and that’s not a good starting point. … If we let people flourish in their own ways, hopefully everyone will find something they want to do.”

But freedom in learning is not sufficient, Zhao says. The underlying environment must be characterized by flexibility, diversity (with access to a variety of adults and learning opportunities both inside and outside the school), and agency (so that students are “citizens of a democratic society who help to shape the society,” Zhao writes, instead of “subjects of a kingdom built by adults”). And then on top of that, “for learning how to be a disciplined, creative entrepreneur, you need a product, and you need practice,” he says.

So to the foundation of a democratic school, he would add the offerings of a New Technology High School, which takes project-based learning to another level. Most project-based learning environments use projects to teach prescribed content and skills, and the teacher retains most (if not all) of the control. Much more valuable is what Zhao calls the “entrepreneurial model” of project-based learning, which places the emphasis on the product rather than the project— students create products or services that meet authentic needs, and build knowledge and skills in the process. The teachers facilitate the process, but the students decide what products to make.

The third and final layer involves establishing a global consciousness, which can be done in numerous ways. It can include learning foreign languages, collaborating with students on the other side of the world (for example, the Cherwell School and Gcato School students jointly established a chicken business), or teaching foreign students about things in your area and vice versa.

The Path From Here to There

These changes will require giving up entrenched beliefs and the sense of comfort offered by a system that emphasizes order, control and immediate tangible results in the form of test scores, Zhao says. But the high unemployment rate among recent college graduates is causing people to rethink their assumptions and question whether the current model of education is serving children’s best interests.

Zhao has observed some elements of the changes for which he’s advocating appearing in more innovative public schools, primarily in suburban areas with smaller school districts and more local control. And in many ways, he says, he’s advocating for the United States to return to its roots.

“America thrived on democracy and trying to celebrate diversity, and allowing individuals to flourish. … It can look very messy,” he says, but the payoff is worth it.

Wired for Wonder Part 2

3 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nLet’s explore this metaphor further.  We hear hints to this quite often. You might hear in the lunchroom “There was magic in the classroom today”, “It worked like magic” “I wish I could do magic today in class”.

I am not suggesting teachers use trickery or subterfuge to deceive students like a street con artist would do. Though I am sure all teachers have been tempted in this. Listen to the words of Whit Haydn describe the three card con game:

We’re playing a game called Chase the Ace,
You have to guess from the back what’s on the face.
Once I mix the cards around,
You tell me where the Ace is found
Hey! Step this way!
Come here and play!
This is the game for the sporting fan,
Try your luck with the Monte Man!   (footnote)

A magical teacher is not a flim-flam man who scams and swindles with schemes to defraud.

I am also not suggesting that teachers be like a circus sideshow barker who shouts,

“Step right up to the Amazing Traveling Carnival and Side Show Extravaganza.  Come on in! It’s only a dollar!  I guarantee you haven’t seen anything like this! Rides? We’ve got Tilt-A-Whirl and we’ve got Merry-Go-Round and a Ferris Wheel! Stay for the Wild Man of Borneo! We’ve got soda pop and corn dogs! Ice cream and cotton candy! Come one come all! Only a dollar, only a dollar!”

I am sure teachers have been tempted to attract the attention of students like that. What I am suggesting is something deeper and wonderful.

Now listen to these preliminary comparisons of a magician and a teacher.

-He is a Showman like Circus Ringleader who points the audience to the spectacle

-He is a mind reader who reads the group with great observation skills

-He creates a receptive atmosphere

-He influences the mental state of the students

-He projects an air of mystery

-He attracts and focuses attention

-He uses words to create change

-He creates memorable moments

-He reveals and evokes wonder

 Listen to the haunting words of world class poet, musician and magician  Jay Scott Berry  (footnote)

                                         The Magician

     I can impress you in the wink of an eye with skills that will surely astound

     I can amaze, amuse, inspire, delight, and lead you to the profound

     You may simply think to brush it all off as prestidigitation.

     Or perhaps you may wish to look a bit deeper to the pool of inspiration.

     For the magic runs wild in the sea of your mind and to find it is always the goal.

     It whispers and sings in the depths of your heart all the way down to our soul.

     It beckons the dreamer ever to fly, the dancer ever to dance.

    And I the Magician, the Worker of Wonder, can merely offer the chance.


Now imagine as the teacher walks into the classroom.  The students are on edge of their seats.

Excitement filled the air with anticipation. What ideas would she produce today? She had no mirrors or threads and nothing up her sleeve.  She seemed to control the environment with the smile on her face.  She told stories of wonder that created life into the pages of the book and in our hearts.  We traveled together as the day unfolded. She did not perform a magic trick because the attention was not on her.  She evoked the magic in us.  She read our minds and hearts. She knew when we were ready.  She gently brought us to a place where we wanted to learn the secret knowledge of math and science. She enticed us to explore.  Her magic hat was a book.  Her magic words were ….”I believe in you”   “You can do this”   She was filled with enthusiasm, confidence,  she was a master of the subject, symbol of something the students desire.  We all wanted to be a teacher because of her. One thing that this teacher did was to see that the magic was in us.  She unleashed a sense of wonder that we could do marvelous things with our minds.

This teacher evoked the wonder and taught that true magic takes work!  The magic was that the students desired to work to produce more magic.

As Blaine Lee, author of the Power Principle, says  “The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”

Teachers need to encourage students that success does not take a magic hat but it takes putting on their thinking caps.  They convey ideas like “It is not a genii lamp for wishful thinking but using brains to do real thinking.  Exercising the body makes us physically strong but successful mental strength comes from determination, persistence, tenacity, resoluteness, toughness and endurance.  There is no elevator to success. You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.  It takes effort.”   That is the magic teachers can produce in the students.

Author  Robert Fanney echoes this when he asks “Is there magic in this world? Certainly! But it is not the kind of magic written about in fantasy stories. It is the kind of magic that comes from ideas and the hard work it often takes to make them real.”

One of these teachers was my 7th grade English teacher who believed in me.

I was in Middle school.  You remember Middle School- the time where self-efficacy declines and wonder diminishes.  But in this class the atmosphere was exploratory and enjoyable. But I remember less about her and more about the magic she unleashed from me. I discovered that I could write poetry with thoughts beyond my years and with language skills beyond the normal 7th grade level.  I was creative! I was a writer and a poet!  I learned to love writing poetry and I produced more in her class than any other class.  I always remember this with a renewed sense of wonder.

She was my cheer leader who produced magic in my heart and helped me  regain my sense of wonder.  She was my wonder champion.

Rita Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion-an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be”   (footnote)

Listen to E.E. Cummings reflection on this, “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

This is a true magician teacher!!!

For many years this sign hung on the door of my own classroom. “In this classroom you are invited to reach your potential!  I believe in you!  You can rise to the challenge!”  I thought of my 7th grade teacher  every time I walked by that sign.

Great teachers are like magicians because they reveal and evoke wonder.

Stay tuned for Part 3….

Wired for Wonder by Bob Bishop Part 1

2 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nPeople are metaphor makers.  We create our metaphors and we perceive life from the metaphors we create.  Metaphors are powerful ways we make meaning of this world. They can empower us and they can debilitate us.  That is why it is important to carefully choose our metaphors that bring success and creativity. Giving the right metaphor to our students can also transform the way they perceive themselves and their ability for learning.

Imagine that you  keep some of the most powerful life changing metaphors in your pocket and can bring them out when you need some reminders.  Let’s try some pocket metaphors right now!

Take some coins from your pocket.  Do it right now! I know that in reading this you may be tempted to be passive and not take action.  But slow down your skimming and take some coins out of your pocket.   Again, take some coins out from your pocket!  Place these coins on the floor and stand on them.  You have just acted out the most powerful metaphor we can begin with.  You are standing in the midst of change.  If you want education to change for the better you need to take action.

Deeper in your pocket you can keep a little paw removed from a stuffed Teddy Bear (a little gruesome, I know).  When you are overwhelmed with all the confusion in education you need to pause (paws), take breath and reflect on why you are in education and the part you play to improve the minds of students.

In my right pants pocket I keep my keychain with a  small flashlight to remind me that when things look dim I can shine some light on the situation and others if I just lighten up a bit.

In my wallet in my back pocket I am ready for anything because I carry one playing card-a joker.  This is a reminder that whatever I am dealt I can transform it something better.  I can laugh at the absurdities of life and not take myself too seriously.

Imagine using this idea with your students.  Imagine them handling struggles, problems or situations  with a metaphor that matches their strengths or passions. Perhaps math is a dragon that they can train or slay.  Perhaps a problem is an opposing football player that they can tackle.  Now imagine blessing your student with the strengths of their heroes.  How would Superman turn this situation around?  If you had the ability to change minds or abilities with your favorite  hero how would they do this?

Here is a helpful hint to all teachers out there. We can teach students  how to apply an appropriate metaphor with their imagination to help them achieve success.  If we want individuals to succeed treat them uniquely with the metaphor that matches their creative passions.  Metaphors have the power of metamorphosis–they can empower students to transform how they perceive problems, success and the world.

We can see how metaphors are the grid and projector of how we perceive the world.  They have penetrated our vocabulary so well they are often imperceptible.

Listen to a few:

Ideas are food: There are raw facts, half-baked ideas you can’t swallow or digest that you may have to let stew for a while or put on the back burner until they become food for  thought.

Ideas are plants: From her fertile imagination planted in her youth became a seed of a budding theory that got to the root of the issue that may branch out before it dies on the vine.

Let’s take a short walk to explore how we use familiar educational metaphors. Take the well-known quote by Socrates: “Education is the kindling of a flame not the filing of a vessel”  Einstein has a similar version of this ideas when he said, “A student is not a container you have to fill but a torch you have to light up.”

These quotes introduce two contrasting metaphors. One sees students as receptacles for stuffing information and knowledge into. The other sees students  as a spark to ignite.  One sees teachers as one who imposes knowledge and fills the mind receptacle with information. The other sees the teacher bringing out knowledge and igniting a flame.  Choosing your metaphor influences how you teach and perceive your students.

In Latin the word “educate” has two Latin roots.  They are eduare which means to train or mold and educere meaning to draw out. Thus there is an etymological basis for many of the debates about education today.  (footnote)

One camp uses education as the preservation and passing down of knowledge -the shaping of youths in the image of the past.  The other camp sees education as preparing a new generation for the issues that are to come–preparing youths to create new solutions to problems yet unknown.

Pushing the characterization to an extreme: one calls for rote memorization and becoming good workers while the other requires questioning, thinking and creating.

If you were to listen carefully to our vocabulary you might catch some learning metaphors that affect how education plays itself out even in your child’s classroom.

If we see the classroom of students as a garden we would see the teacher as planting ideas as seeds that grow in our students.

If we see our classroom as a competitive race you would see whoever gets to the finish line first wins.

If you see yourself as a gamer you would strategize to determine what to teach and students would either win or lose

If the classroom is seen as a battleground the job would be to win over the students.

A common metaphor of the industrial age is the educational factory where students are products on an assembly line molded to fit in a competitive system.

A common (seemingly harmless) metaphor for education is a journey.  But this can be distorted to become the journey of the teacher. The trailblazer teacher’s responsibility is to keep moving their students through content.  The teacher “needs to keep going,” “pass to the next thing”, “move on” and to “to cover the material”.  Student lack of movement (lack of academic progress) is used to describe students who can’t keep the pace.  The road to academic progress has only one “only way”  and “one size fits all”.

Even the Latin root of curriculum adds momentum to this. Curriculum means a “race” or the “course of a race.”

Let’s take out that “paw” from your pocket to pause and reflect.

Metaphors that focus on what the teacher does rather than what the students learn sees students as passive receivers who need motivation to stretch that vessel and to keep up with the race.

So what are we really teaching?  What is the secret curriculum between the lines of our schools? What hidden  metaphor is behind the curtain of our educational system?  What metaphor is behind the decision making in this countries’ education system.  When we continually compare our country with other countries to demonstrate how far we are behind are we not presupposing a metaphor?  What we focus on is what our children focus on.

The most well-known metaphor for ideas is a light bulb. Let’s start there for a moment. Let’s take out that flash light from your pocket to shed some light on education.

Here are some observations based on a light bulb.

  1. We are all wired differently with different learning styles.  If we look around at the observable differences in students we can be assured that their brains, though looking  similar, have far more neuron nuances with more complex differences than physical appearances.
  2. We learn by making connections.  Learning is a physical process in which new knowledge is represented by new brain cell connections.  Students gather information but it takes the integrative imagination to create knowledge.
  3. Our task is turning kids on to learning.  Just as a light bulb has a switch to turn it on, teachers have to find that switch that will light up the student’s desire to learn.
  4. Sometimes we get our wires crossed on what learning is all about.  We do not connect  because we do not teach to how students learn.
  5. We can all use some bright creative ideas for motivation.  The best teachers are models of learning.  They share with students that every day is a learning experience to further understand the topics they teach and the students they seek to inspire.
  6. We are wired for wonder.  Deep inside every learner there is a mind that hungers for the electricity of astonishment and a desire for wonder.

I would like to introduce a new metaphor.  It is exciting, mysterious and fun! We are in a transformational time in education.  Remember we are standing in the midst of change. But you better sit down to listen to this.  Here is a fresh metaphor to help us transform our perspective of education.

Think of the first magic trick you saw and how you experienced a thrill, surprise, mystery, and a spectacle.  Think of a time where your innocence found wonder.  This may sound trivial or naive now but think of how you felt as a child. This was a time before you knew about sleight-of-hand, trapdoors, and “up the sleeve” secrets.  This was before you knew that parlor tricks were done with smoke and mirrors.  This was before your amazement was dashed after a magician fumbled or bumbled and destroyed the spell.

You could have remembered your grandfather pulling a coin from your ear. You could have remembered a circus or amusement park entertainer or a stage illusion from David Copperfield. You could have been dazzled by a close-up magician with a card trick, amazed by an escape artist in the tradition of Houdini, or had someone “read” your mind.

What if you had a magic wand that could transform something about education or your teaching?  Like that joker in your back pocket, what if you could transform what you were dealt into something amazing?

Would you like to make some magic happen in your classroom?  Remember we are developing a metaphor even as you read.

What if you could……..

                    M    Motivate from a heart of wonder

                    A    Activate learning

                    G    Generate inquisitiveness

                    I      Invigorate emotions

                    C    Celebrate the brain

Six Ways To Motivate Students To Learn

21 12 2014

Annie Murphy Paul


Scientific research has provided us with a number of ways to get the learning juices flowing, none of which involve paying money for good grades. And most smart teachers know this, even without scientific proof.

1.   Fine-tune the challenge. We’re most motivated to learn when the task before us is matched to our level of skill: not so easy as to be boring, and not so hard as to be frustrating. Deliberately fashion the learning exercise so that students are working at the very edge of your abilities, and keep upping the difficulty as they improve.

2.  Start with the question, not the answer. Memorizing information is boring. Discovering the solution to a puzzle is invigorating. Present material to be learned not as a fait accompli, but as a live question begging to be explored.

3.   Encourage students to beat their personal best. Some learning tasks, like memorizing the multiplication table or a list of names or facts, are simply not interesting in themselves. Generate motivation by encouraging students to compete against themselves: run through the material once to establish a baseline, then keep track of how much they improve (in speed, in accuracy) each time.

4.   Connect abstract learning to concrete situations. Adopt the case-study method that has proven so effective for business, medical and law school students: apply abstract theories and concepts to a real-world scenario, using these formulations to analyze and make sense of situations involving real people and real stakes.

5.   Make it social. Put together a learning group, or have students find learning partners with whom they can share their moments of discovery and points of confusion. Divide the learning task into parts, and take turns being teacher and pupil. The simple act of explaining what they’re learning out loud will help them understand and remember it better.

6.   Go deep. Almost any subject is interesting once you get inside it. Assign the task of becoming the world’s expert on one small aspect of the material they have to learn—then extend their new expertise outward by exploring how the piece they know so well connects to all the other pieces they need to know about.

For more about the science of learning, go to AnnieMurphyPaul.com

Bestowing the Gift of Self-Confidence to Students

7 12 2014

The Gift of Self-Confidence

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

            One of the most important gifts that a teacher can impart to a student is the gift of self-confidence.  To succeed at anything, a person must believe that success is possible.  Many students lack the belief that they could possibly be successful in school or anywhere else; as a result, these same people have difficulty succeeding in life. Students who doubt their abilities often lack any motivation to try.  If a person does not try, they have no possibility of succeeding.  As a result, an educator must first impart the ability to believe in oneself before the student can begin to succeed. Educators must become Peter Pan to help students fly.

When I was teaching in an Alternative Education, I was amazed at the students who had no desire to do well in school or even to attempt to do well in school.  After getting to know these students, I discovered that most of them had suffered so many humiliating failures at school that they believed that they were not capable of learning. They found it was less painful to do nothing, than to attempt anything and fail.  To continually have the belief that they could not succeed reinforced was just too painful for them.  Some of them used outrageous behavior as a way of avoiding this failure. I remember one particular student, Juan, who would not stay in his seat, sang loudly and yelled obscenities across the room to avoid a writing assignment. To reach students like Juan, I had to break down their barriers, get to know them as individuals, persuade them that I was their advocate and I was going to show them how to be successful by celebrating even their smallest achievement.  Being successful can be  rewarding, but to convince these students of that, the teachers needs to break successful behavior into its smallest components and reward for the successful completion of each small step.  For example, I began by rewarding students for coming to class prepared.  Each student who had a pencil and paper was rewarded with a small piece of candy.  Next I created a chart on the board showing the relationship of how a student would feel if he brought this parents a report cards with all “A’s” on it compared to how he would feel if he brought his parents a report card with all “F’s” on it.  Helping a student understand that happiness is directly connected to their success in school is an important step to motivating them to want to succeed.

Students who feel socially inept are often unhappy at school.  Girls, especially, suffer from social bullying that goes unnoticed by educators.  Our society puts so much emphasis on physical beauty and social position in school that students who do not fit the norm are often isolated.  Girls often exclude these girls from social situations and do not include them even in conversations.  Shunning can be cruel treatment that can cause scars that last a lifetime.  Some of this bullying takes the form of cruel comments in social media or scathing remarks made in a classroom or a hallway.  Students who suffer from these vicious assaults lose their self-esteem and as a result, do poorly academically or feel badly about continuing their education because it is too painful.   As an educator, protecting and supporting students’ self-esteem should be one of our goals. Helping students learn to accept and embrace people who are different from them should be another. For students to do well, all students must feel safe and appreciated.

When teachers are writing goals for their classrooms, academic goals are only one dimension of education.  Helping a student feel safe and good about his ability to succeed should be high on the list of objectives. Helping a student accept that others may differ from him, but should still included  in the community without ridicule or attack.   School should prepare students to succeed in life.  If a student has doubts or is not empowered with self-confidence, he cannot succeed.  Like Peter Pan, teachers must bestow the gift of self-confidence.

Posted by Jill Jenkins 


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