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Should I motivate students?

Updated on December 2, 2012

Must I motivate students?


Do they have to be self-motivated?

I have been training students of all shapes, sizes, color, creed, sex, motivation and so on for several years now.

The issue of whether:
Must I motivate students OR Do they have to be self motivated
Comes back time and time again to haunt me as a trainer.

It is while pondering this issue - I slowly grew to realize - just what a lousy teacher I really was.

Let me try and set some perspective on this:

All the students that I’ve had under my microscope have belonged to the Post Graduate domain. I’ve had the privilege of teaching them management subjects. I use the term privilege here simply because the greatest and most valuable education I’ve ever had in all my life was from the students I’ve taught.

As my understanding of student motivation deepened, this drove me to apply corrective action to myself in the training area of my persona. Eventually - over time I grew to realize just how much my students taught me, which forced me to become a better human being first and then – amazingly – A better trainer.

Now – Back to the topic - Must I motivate students OR Do they have to be self motivated

My first revelation:

This is what gave me quite a kick in my pants. In my earlier failures as a trainer I slowly began to realize that

I was an extrinsic motivator. Wow ! ! - I wondered where that came from.

On pondering why ( such a lovely word ponder – don’t you think? ),

I had quite realization –
Since the day I was born into this world, right from the time of my first interactions with – Learning – I had been singularly exposed only to the techniques of extrinsic motivation.

Let’s examine the term - Extrinsic motivation – This is motivation to perform and succeed for the sake of accomplishing a specific result or outcome. Very quickly ( maybe I am a tad inaccurate – I’ll let You decide ) – I discovered students who are made very grade-oriented are extrinsically motivated.

When I forced a student to do something, I began to realize it’s not their motivation responding.

It may be fear or compliance, but the moment I withdraw the external pressure, that person simply ceased to do what they were doing in response to my pressure.

Apparently I discovered the same thing happened when using rewards on students. The reward became a form of bribery that replaced their intrinsic motivation of doing a task for the sake of the task itself or from the mere pleasure of accomplishing the task.

Over time I began to see / experience some fascinating behavior from my students, this was all part of my being educated by my students.

I then began casting out several of my training techniques and changing my ways of training that were very strongly rooted in extrinsic motivation.

My second revelation:

Was when I discovered intrinsic motivation.
( Do remember I was pondering – Just in case you forgot this is my gentle way of reminding you. )

Intrinsic motivation arises from a desire to learn a topic due to its inherent interests, for self-fulfillment, enjoyment and to achieve a mastery of the subject. Especially because it adds value to YOU.

I was like a dog with a juicy bone, I was in heaven. I knew what I had to change ME.

As a trainer I merely had to change my extrinsic motivation training techniques and apply this new training technique called intrinsic motivation and I’d become a Sensational Trainer.

My final revelation:

What I then discovered to my utter horror was – I just did not know how to do this.
Oh!! that was a truly amazing revelation of self.

Hence I went back to my faithful guinea pigs. ( Don’t we all? ) Oh Yes ! ! – They still trusted me.
I’ve never really understood exactly how I won my student’s faith – BUT that discussion is for another day another time .

I continued my pondering and rapidly extended my search on how I could deliver my training material such that I triggered a student’s intrinsic motivation. i.e. How to turn them ON to my subject material.

My desire to do this was purely selfish, almost to preserve self, if my students were turned ON then my work load reduced extensively and I always had a lively group to exchange my knowledge with.

Here are some of the changes I made in ME as a Trainer:

1. I established a sense of belonging in the students I trained

Students I discovered ( trial and error really ) have a fundamental need to feel connected or related to other students. The strongest interpersonal ties seem to be forged in their two years of MBA studies.

In my MBA academic environment, I found that students who feel they belong have a higher degree of intrinsic motivation and academic confidence.

My students taught me, that their sense of belonging is fostered by a trainer that demonstrated warmth and openness, encouraged student participation, is enthusiastic, friendly and helpful, and is organized and always thoroughly prepared for a class.

2. I worked my butt of to make it real

In the topics I teach I try my level best to create learning activities that are based on experiences relevant to my student’s lives.  I use Shoppers Stop, Big Bazar, In-Orbit, Hyper-city as base models for all learning examples.

I insist that each student physically visit each of these entities ( or similar entities ) and walk around there observing and noting down what they experience.  I ask some of them to be downright rude to shop floor staff and document reactions.  Then ask them to present what happened in class. 

I ask them to describe exactly how they felt when they were doing this exercise and pointed out what empathizing really is by telling them that at the end of the MBA degree - they will be at exactly the receiving end.  I’m always amazed at the change this brings.  I often get to see them handing each other very differently after that. Especially how the weaker students in class are handled by the more adept.

My strategies always include:

  1. Using local examples
  2. Training with events in the news
  3. Using pop culture technology ( iPods, cell phones, YouTube videos ) to train
  4. Connecting my subjects in some way with my student’s culture, outside interests and/or social lives

Oh BTW, let me confess I’m not terribly good at doing any of this – . . . . just a tad better than most.

3. I adopted a supportive style of training

I discovered that when I granted a degree of student autonomy, it fostered a sharp increase in student participation and interest. I found students became interested, pushed their performance really hard and somehow seemed to really enjoy their trainer ( i.e. ME). 

  • I became a great listener – I really improved my Hearing
  • I refrained from preaching
  • I refrained from comparisons
  • I gave helpful directions – when asked
  • I never blocked out the obnoxious – I struggle with this even today but I try really hard
  • I always encourage
  • I always empathize

4. I sat down and strategized with struggling students

When I identified students who were struggling with poor academic performance, low self-belief, low motivation, I adopted a strategy helped taught them how to learn.  I sat with them after class,

  1. I outlined specific strategies they could use for completing an assignment
  2. Taught them how to take notes during my lectures
  3. How to do a quick review prior to an evaluation

Simple stuff. 

Then I followed up to check if they were still floundering or their change had begun.  If changes had started I stepped back quickly, otherwise I gave it another shot. This really caught most of them completely by surprise. 

The noticed the changes in ME were both remarkable and measurable. 

The changes I saw in my students were truly awesome.

Somehow, seemingly without any special effort on my part they became intrinsically motivated. Together we had broken through the strong mold of - extrinsic motivation. 

My students taught me first.

Then I had the privilege of training them as – Pay back.

I teach at a few MBA and Engineering colleges in India. Of all the things I do - Teaching / Training - gives me the greatest satisfaction. I felt compelled to write this Hub page. I wanted to share my experience of teaching students with others.

I would love to have comments and reactions from other teachers / trainers everywhere.

I would be honored to learn how they deal with motivating students that have been entrusted to them and who have placed their faith in them.

Ivan Bayross


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    • opensourcevarsity profile image

      Ivan Bayross 6 years ago from Mumbai / India

      Thank you for your lovely comment Archana. I do appreciate you reading such a long Hub page.

    • profile image

      Archana Raha 6 years ago

      Ivan, while on motivation - all of us need it, even the self motivated - at times. this is one of the best write ups. "Not blocking the obnoxious" - is a challenge - please tell me more ...