Our readers have shown great interest in our posts that address a variety of ideas and strategies for motivating students, and we’re always interested in your perspective on the topic as well. We’re also eager to investigate what students have to say on a variety of topics, and we believe that you are, too!
In a recent poll, Cengage Learning asked college students: What keeps you going throughout the day? We were also curious about what instructors believe keeps students going throughout the day, so we asked the Engaging Minds audience to provide their insights, too. Here’s how they responded:
Both college students and instructors ranked “the motivation to graduate” and “a positive outlook” at the top of the list. However, a greater percentage of students (32%) identified graduation as the primary motivating factor, whereas Engaging Minds readers prioritized the benefits of a positive outlook. This may indicate that students are more motivated by a shorter-term (but still important) goal, whereas those who have already graduated—and who have had the benefit of observing many successful students in their courses—may perhaps be positioned to recognize the effect that one’s attitude has on success in all areas of life.
As for the remaining results:
- Percentagewise, college students (14%) and Engaging Minds readers (13%) ranked “support from friends and family” with approximately the same weight. (And as you’ll see below, Engaging Minds readers also believe that instructors can play a strong role in supporting students’ success.)
- “An active, healthy lifestyle” had its support among 9% of student respondents; a slightly higher percentage of Engaging Minds readers (13%) gave it preeminence. (However, we’re sure you’d agree that this doesn’t take away from the impact that rest, stress-management techniques, and other healthy practices can have on college success!)
- Notably, Engaging Minds readers (18%) ranked discipline as the most important factor, while only 10% of responding college students did so. Again, this doesn’t diminish the role that persistence plays in students’ ability to achieve their academic goals.
Tips for helping your students retain their motivation and maintain a positive outlook
Are your students discouraged, distracted, drained, or losing focus? If so, you may be interested in learning your colleagues’ strategies for supporting student motivation. For this reason, we also asked the Engaging Minds audience: If a student is feeling unmotivated, what would you recommend that he or she do in order to increase the drive to succeed?
Some of the most common responses honed in on the following three themes:
- Refocus. It could be that students have lost their drive and need to regain their focus in order to kickstart their motivation. As Sandy Phipps of Hazard Community & Technical College (Hazard, KY) suggests, students can start by working to “determine what is fueling the lack of motivation and reduce/eliminate it. Or find a new path…”
- Set goals. Charlotte Ramsey of the College of Westchester (White Plains, NY) writes that students should “…place a determination about the future in his/her mind”, and that instructors can “help them to see a goal that getting the work done can help them achieve.” On a similar note: Pam Milstead, Bossier Parish Community College (Bossier City, LA) would encourage students to “think about where they currently are and where they can be after graduation”—a positive picture of career aspirations and success can indeed be inspiring!
- Speak to their instructor or an advisor. If you make yourself available to a student in need of guidance regarding course matters, that can be a great help. Hyacinth Findlay of Alabama State University (Montgomery, AL) states that a student may want to “do some introspection about what he or she really wants to do, what his or her interests are, and realistically evaluate his or her abilities. Then with help from a trusted counselor or instructor, develop a plan. As the student completes step by step with success, he or she will be motivated to continue. The student can reevaluate the plan at any point.”
If a student is feeling unmotivated, what would you recommend that he or she do in order to increase the drive to succeed? Share your ideas below.