Teaching Methods And What Motivates Students To Learn

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    A lot of people ask me what the secret to teaching is, but there is no one answer. One thing that I have learned through my years of teaching is that all students are motivated differently. 

    Some students need social interaction, while others need a more hands-on approach with their work. The key to finding out what motivates your student's learning style is getting to know them better before teaching them anything else. 

    There are many different ways to teach and learn. Some teachers may find that one method is better than another for the type of student they have in their class, while others might prefer a variety of methods. However, regardless of what you teach or how you teach it, some basic principles will help all students succeed. 

    This post will explore how to motivate your students with tips on teaching methods and techniques. 

    This blog post discusses what motivates people to learn, the best way to teach them (based on their personality), and what most types of learners need in order for them to excel in school or at work. There's also advice about how teachers can use these findings when they're designing lessons or engaging students who don't seem interested.

    Teaching Methods

    The term teaching method refers to the general principles, pedagogy and management strategies used for classroom instruction.

    Your choice of teaching method depends on what fits you — your educational philosophy, classroom demographic, subject area(s) and school mission statement.

    Teaching theories can be organized into four categories based on two major parameters: a teacher-centred approach versus a student-centred approach and high-tech material use versus low-tech material use.

    Teacher-Centred Approach to Learning

    Taken to its most extreme interpretation, teachers are the main authority figure in a teacher-centred instruction model. On the other hand, students are viewed as “empty vessels” who passively receive knowledge from their teachers through lectures and direct instruction, with an end goal of positive results from testing and assessment. Teaching and assessment are viewed as two separate entities; student learning is measured through objectively scored tests and assessments.

    Student-Centred Approach to Learning

    While teachers are still an authority figure in a student-centred teaching model, teachers and students play an equally active role in the learning process.

    The teacher’s primary role is to coach and facilitate student learning and overall comprehension of material and measure student learning through formal and informal forms of assessment, like group projects, student portfolios, and class participation. Thus, teaching and assessment are connected in the student-centred classroom because student learning is continuously measured during teacher instruction.

    High Tech Approach to Learning

    Advancements in technology have propelled the education sector in the last few decades. As the name suggests, the high tech approach to learning utilizes different technology to aid students in their classroom learning. Many educators use computers and tablets in the classroom, and others may use the internet to assign homework.


    The internet is also beneficial in a classroom setting as it provides unlimited resources. Teachers may also use the internet in order to connect their students with people from around the world.

    Below are some tech tools used in classrooms today:

    Low Tech Approach to Learning

    While technology undoubtedly has changed education, many educators opt to use a more traditional, low-tech learning approach. For example, some learning styles require a physical presence and interaction between the educator and the student. Additionally, some research has shown that low-tech classrooms may boost learning. 

    For example, students who take handwritten notes have better recall than students who take typed notes. Another downside of technology in the classroom may be that students exposed to spell check and autocorrect features at an earlier age may be weaker in spelling and writing skills. Ultimately, tailoring the learning experience to different types of learners is incredibly important, and sometimes students work better with a low-tech approach.

    Here are some examples of low technology usage in different teaching methodologies:

    • Kinesthetic learners have a need for movement when learning. Therefore, teachers should allow students to move around, speak with hands and gestures.
    • Expeditionary learning involves “learning by doing” and participating in a hands-on experience. For example, students may participate in fieldwork, learning expeditions, projects or case studies to be able to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to the real world, rather than learning through the virtual world.
    • Many types of vocational or practical training cannot be learned virtually, whether it be a laboratory experiment or woodworking.

    Through these different teaching approaches, educators can better understand how best to govern their classrooms, implement instruction, and connect with their students. 

    Within each teacher and student-centeredness and tech usage category, specific teaching roles or “methods” of instructor behaviour feature their own unique mix of learning and assessment practices. Learn more about each one to find the best fit for your classroom.

    Teacher-Centred Methods of Instruction

    Direct Instruction (Low Tech)

    Direct instruction is the general term that refers to the traditional teaching strategy that relies on explicit teaching through lectures and teacher-led demonstrations.

    As the primary teaching strategy under the teacher-centred approach, direct instruction utilizes passive learning or the idea that students can learn what they need to through listening and watching very precise instruction. Teachers and professors act as the sole supplier of knowledge, and under the direct instruction model, teachers often utilize systematic, scripted lesson plans. Direct instruction programs include exactly what the teacher should say and activities that students should complete for every minute of the lesson.

    Because it does not include student preferences or give them opportunities for hands-on or alternative types of learning, direct instruction is extremely teacher-centred. it’s also fairly low-tech, often relying on the use of textbooks and workbooks instead of computers and 1:1 devices.

    Flipped Classrooms (High Tech)

    The flipped classroom idea began in 2007 when two teachers began using software that would let them record their live lectures. By the next school year, they were implementing pre-recorded lectures and sharing the idea of what became known as the flipped classroom.

    Broadly, the flipped classroom label describes the teaching structure that has students watching pre-recorded lessons at home and completing in-class assignments, as opposed to hearing lectures in class and doing homework at home. Teachers who implement the flipped classroom model often film their own instructional videos, but many also use pre-made videos from online sources.

    A key benefit of the flipped classroom model is that it allows students to work at their own pace if the teacher chooses to implement it. In some cases, teachers may assign the same videos to all students. In others, teachers may allow students to watch new videos as they master topics (taking on a more “differentiated” approach).

    But despite this potential for more student-centeredness, flipped classroom models are still mostly based on a teacher’s idea of how learning should happen and what information students need, making it chiefly teacher-centred. In addition, from a technology perspective, the system hinges on pre-recorded lessons and online activities, meaning both students and teachers need a good internet connection and devices that can access it.

    Kinesthetic Learning (Low Tech)

    Sometimes known as tactile learning" or "hands-on learning", kinesthetic learning is based on the idea of multiple intelligences, requiring students to do, make, or create. In a kinesthetic learning environment, students perform physical activities rather than listen to lectures or watch demonstrations. Hands-on experiences, drawing, role-play, building, and the use of drama and sports are all examples of kinesthetic classroom activities.


    Though a great way to keep students engaged and, at times, simply awake, very few classrooms employ kinesthetic learning activities exclusively. One reason is that, despite the popularity of learning style theories, there is a lack of research-based evidence that shows that teaching to certain learning styles produces better academic results.

    One upside is that kinesthetic learning is rarely based on technology, as the method values movement and creativity over technological skills. That means it’s cheap and fairly low-barrier to adopt, as well as a welcome break from students’ existing screen time. In addition, kinesthetic learning can be more student-centred than teacher-centred when students are given the choice of how to use movement to learn new information or experience new skills, so it’s also adaptable to a teacher’s particular classroom preferences.

    Student-Centred Methods of Instruction

    Differentiated Instruction (Low Tech)

    Differentiated instruction is the teaching practice of tailoring instruction to meet individual student needs. It initially grew popular with the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA), which ensured all children had equal access to public education. The Individualized Education Programs  (IEPs) that started under IDEA helped classroom teachers differentiate for students with special needs. Today, differentiated instruction is used to meet the needs of all types of learners.

    Teachers can differentiate in a number of ways: how students access content, the types of activities students do to master a concept, what the end product of learning looks like, and how the classroom is set up. Some examples of differentiation include: having students read books at their own reading levels, offering different spelling lists to students, or meeting in small groups to reteach topics.

    Though differentiation is focused on individual student needs, it is mostly planned and implemented by the teacher. And technology, though a potential aid, is not a hallmark of the differentiated teaching style, making it a fairly traditional, low-barrier method to adopt.

    Inquiry-based Learning (High Tech)

    Based on student investigation and hands-on projects, inquiry-based learning is a teaching method that casts a teacher as a supportive figure who provides guidance and support for students throughout their learning process, rather than a sole authority figure.

    Teachers encourage students to ask questions and consider what they want to know about the world around them. Students then research their questions, find information and sources that explain key concepts and solve problems they may encounter along the way. Findings might be presented as self-made videos, websites, or formal presentations of research results.

    Inquiry-based learning falls under the student-centred approach, in that students play an active and participatory role in their own learning. But teacher facilitation is also extremely key to the process. Usually, during the inquiry cycle, every student is working on a different question or topic. 

    In this environment, teachers ask high-level questions and make research suggestions about the process rather than the content. At the end of the inquiry cycle, students reflect on the experience and what they learned. They also consider how it connects to other topics of interest, as an inquiry on one topic often results in more questions and then an inquiry into new fields.

    Inquiry-based learning can make great use of technology through online research sites, social media, and the possibility for global connections with people outside of the community. But depending on the subject at hand, it doesn’t necessarily require it.

    Expeditionary Learning (High Tech)

    Expeditionary learning is based on the educator’s ideas who founded the Outward Bound. It is a form of project-based learning in which students go on expeditions and engage in an in-depth study of topics that impact their schools and communities.

    The learning in this model includes multiple content areas so that students can see how problem-solving can happen in the real world--ideally, their own worlds. A student in a big city, for example, might study statistics about pollution, read information about its effects, and travel to sites in their city that have been impacted by the problem. Then, when they understand the circumstances, students and teachers work to find a solution they can actively implement.

    Technology-wise, G Suite (Google Docs, Sheets, and Drive) and internet access can aid student research, presentation, and implementation of projects. But it's the hands-on work and getting out into the community that’s the cornerstone of this methodology.

    Personalized Learning (High Tech)

    Personalized learning is such a new educational model that its definition is still evolving. At the heart of the model, teachers have students follow personalized learning plans that are specific to their interests and skills. Student self-direction and choice in the curriculum are hallmarks of personalized learning.

    Assessment is also tailored to the individual: schools and classrooms that implement personalized learning use competency-based progression so that students can move onto the next standards or topics when they’ve mastered what they’re currently working on. That way, students in personalized learning classrooms can progress to work beyond their grade level as they master topics, while students who need additional help have that time built into their daily schedules as well.

    There’s also room for an emphasis on college and career readiness in personalized learning environments. For example, students who don’t require remediation or extension work can instead work with teachers to nurture social skills and other or 21st-century skills lessons and receive mentoring.

    Personalized learning is extremely student-centred, but teachers are required to teach lessons, look at frequent assessment data, and meet with students to make any necessary changes to their learning plans. They’ll also need to have a certain comfort level with technology: the differentiated and personalized instruction that students receive often comes in the form of online lessons and programs, so teachers must navigate virtual platforms with ease.

    Game-based Learning (High Tech)

    Game-based learning comes from the desire to engage students in more active learning in the classroom. In addition, because they require students to be problem solvers and use soft skills that they will need as adults, games are a great way to encourage a “mastery” mindset rather than focusing on grades.

    In a game-based learning environment, students work on quests to accomplish a specific goal (learning objective) by choosing actions and experimenting along the way. As students make certain progress or achievements, they can earn badges and experience points, just like they would in their favourite video games.

    Game-based learning requires a lot of time and planning on the teachers’ part. Fortunately, there is software that makes this process much easier, like 3DGameLab  and Classcraft In addition, teachers who use this software may be better at differentiating quests for students because of the programs’ data.

    Because teachers play a big role in planning and creating content under this model, game-based learning isn’t completely student-centred. But it is still very much focused on the student, who works at their own pace and makes independent choices in a gamified environment.

    What motivates students to learn

    Teachers and parents recognize the power of motivation in enhancing learning outcomes and helping students to achieve their best at school. For example, a motivated student might do his or her homework without being asked to, go above and beyond the requirements of assignments and participate in classroom discussions without being prompted.

    More importantly, he or she may be more able to view a poor exam result as a learning opportunity instead of as an academic failure. So what motivates students to learn, and how can we encourage them?

    Students may be motivated by their interest in a topic, their prior success in a specific subject, a desire to please parents or teachers or simply by their own drive to succeed. However, motivation works best when children also have a healthy self-image, are confident in their abilities and know-how to take a step-by-step approach to problem-solving.


    Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Motivation

    There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsically motivated individuals learn because of a desire that comes from within. Extrinsic motivation is when an outside force is involved in encouraging students to learn.

    Whereas adults are more autonomous and can make decisions about what they want to study, children are often forced to learn whatever is in the school curriculum. This can mean they are not always intrinsically motivated to master a specific subject and may rely on extrinsic motivation, including rewards or negative consequences based on performance.

    However, there are ways to help foster more intrinsic motivation in kids. See below for a list of ideas for teachers and learn more in our posts on the importance of motivation and motivating kids to read.

    Ideas For Fostering Motivation And Engagement

    One step at a time

    Feeling overwhelmed at school is a common sentiment among students that can cause them to lose motivation, no matter how passionate they are about a topic. In addition, while adults tend to be good at seeing the big picture and breaking a task down into logical steps, this skill may not be as intuitive for younger learners.

    Teachers can help by doing some of the work for students and structuring assignments in a step-by-step manner.

    Revisiting yesterday’s task, introducing today’s lesson and briefly mentioning tomorrow’s, helps kids develop strong planning skills and be more self-efficacious in their learning. It’s also a good way to motivate students to focus on one thing at a time, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

    Let Students Choose

    To the extent that it is possible, allow students some say in what and how they learn.

    When you are in control of your learning, you are more invested in the outcome. Many teachers have a set school curriculum they must cover, but there is usually a way to customize lesson content by providing examples and/or anecdotes that both reinforce learning and are of particular interest to students. 

    It can also be useful to introduce children to a variety of learning styles as they may discover they are more successful taking a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic approach. This is particularly true for students who struggle with specific learning difficulties

    Success fosters motivation to learn, so the more accommodating teachers can be, the better. To learn more, see our tips for teachers on helping students with dyslexia and dyspraxia in the classroom.

    Praise Effort Over Result

    Whether or not a learner is particularly successful in a task, remind them that trying their hardest is what counts and praise their efforts. This helps individuals build healthy self-esteem, so students maintain a positive view of themselves, regardless of their school marks.

    Children with healthy self-esteem are often more confident in the classroom and more willing to take on new challenges. In addition, they may find it easier to embrace their successes and see their failures as performance issues which are separate from their self-worth. Learn more about helping students build self-confidence.

    In addition, when teachers concentrate on honing a student’s approach to problem-solving and developing their skills vs. completing a particular task successfully, they help students see the big picture and take a more healthy approach to learning. Education is a lifelong pursuit, and it’s easier to remain motivated to learn when you understand this.

    Focus Attention Through Engagement

    Some children have trouble paying attention at school. This may be due to a learning difficulty such as ADHD or events at home that are causing emotional distress and/or distraction. Unfortunately, telling a student to pay attention is often the least effective way to engage them in the task at hand.

    Instead, try freewriting assignments or group activities that ask learners to brainstorm personal connections to the material before they begin a lesson. This will make it easier for them to engage with the content and form lasting memories.

    You may also ask students to get up from their desks and move around the room or perform some physical task to engage both their minds and bodies in the upcoming lesson.

    A multi-sensory approach, such as the one taken by the Touch-type Read and Spell Course, is another great way to do this. It involves seeing, hearing and typing, adding a tactile element to literacy skills development as students use muscle memory in the hands to help with mastering skills such as spelling

    Review Progress And Set Realistic Goals

    Defining learning milestones based on what an individual has already achieved sets them up for success and helps to ensure motivation to learn remains strong. It can also make a huge difference in attitude and expectations when teachers, parents and learners sit down together to review past work, chart student progress and set goals for the future. 

    Having kids keep a journal or folder where they store all of their work makes it easier to do this. It’s also useful to set regular check-in sessions and ask learners how they feel about their progress. In this way, they are involved in the decision-making from the beginning.

    Remember, no two students will be exactly alike in their approach to learning. Therefore, if a student is falling behind his or her peers or failing to make adequate progress, it might be useful to bring in a private tutor who can work one-on-one with the individual and provide the needed direct support.

    Self-Directed Learning And Motivation

    In self-directed learning, students take an active vs. passive role in managing their time and assessing their own progress. This encourages intrinsic motivation, as there is no outside pressure to perform or meet deadlines.

    Students set the pace and decide how much material to cover in each session. A self-directed approach set within the general guidelines of a structured course can be extremely motivating, particularly for students with learning difficulties who often benefit from over-learning.

    That’s because it gives individuals the chance to repeat lessons as many times as is needed without the stigma of taking longer than their peers.

    While it is not always possible to follow a self-direct approach in a classroom context, it may be easier to achieve outside of regular school hours. Some districts offer access to self-directed courses, including touch-typing programs like TTRS.

    With using appropriate methods to the material and the characteristics of students. According to the relationships of teacher's teaching method or model and the classroom atmosphere greatly affect student's achievement. ... Low or high learning achievement is influenced by the low or high level of students' motivation.

    Top 5 Strategies for Motivating Students
    1. Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset. ...
    2. Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students. ...
    3. Grow a community of learners in your classroom. ...
    4. Establish high expectations and establish clear goals. ...
    5. Be inspirational.

    Doing sports for fun (football, hockey, soccer, long-distance running, badminton). Participating in outdoor activities (rock climbing, downhill skiing, kayaking), informal practices (volleyball, basketball) and physical fitness training (aerobics, step, swimming). Taking lessons (swimming, snowboarding, judo).

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