My Top 5 Tips for Motivating Students

A student climbs a mountain of books, cheering as she nears the top
Student Success
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Melinda Doty is a full-time Faculty Member at East Carolina University


Motivating students has never been more important than it is now. With many classes pivoting to remote or hybrid learning, student engagement has been a bigger challenge than in pre-pandemic times. On top of that, the need for students to be constantly “entertained” has only made the process harder.

As instructors, we hope for a dynamic class full of interaction between us and our students. If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new ways to inspire excitement in the learning process. So, here are five strategies that helped with engaging and motivating students in my class.

1. Show Your Personality in Class

Allowing your students to see you as a person rather than someone simply lecturing to them is a great way to motivate them in class. Creating a community-like atmosphere where students feel accepted is crucial in prompting engagement. Show your students your personality and hobbies—let them see that you’re like them and have interests outside of the classroom.

2. Build a Positive Atmosphere

Creating a positive classroom atmosphere is an easy way to keep students motivated and ready to learn. If you are genuinely excited about the material, your students will be more likely to become interested in it as well. Your excitement encourages students to view and engage with the material in the same way you do.

3. Emphasize Success

Structure your syllabus in a way that provides clear routes to achieve goals and meet the course objectives. Construct assignments that allow you to monitor progress and reward students when they are successful. The “reward” could be as easy as a quick email congratulating them on a job well done or a brief conversation at the end of class. A simple “good job” goes a long way to keep students motivated.

My school recently implemented a process to send out notifications three times a semester to update students on their progress in class, whether positive or negative. While it helps those who are struggling with courses, students have also contacted me with the appreciation of knowing they are doing a good job.

4. Incorporate Active Learning

Active learning is any activity that allows students to participate in the learning process, versus simply listening to information. By implementing active learning techniques, you can grab students’ attention and help them remain actively engaged with the subject matter. I employ a “flipped classroom” approach where I teach the subject while completing a lab assignment. My students then take a quiz and do another assignment for homework. By implementing active learning strategies, I successfully keep my students engaged with the material in class.

5. Utilize Digital Engagement Tools

Having taught hybrid classes due to COVID-19, I learned to incorporate a wide variety of digital engagement techniques into my lessons. One example is the videoconferencing “breakout room.” These “rooms,” found in all major video conferencing tools, can be utilized in a multitude of ways to increase feelings of community and connection. My students enjoyed the smaller discussion groups and were more likely to speak up and work with their classmates.

Additionally, I found Kahoot and Flipgrid to be incredibly effective tools. Kahoot is a quiz-based program that fosters competition while teaching material in a fun, game-type atmosphere. The reviews I received from my students last year prompted me to use Kahoot in all courses moving forward. Flipgrid allows students to record short videos for the entire class to review. This engagement strategy helps increase the sense of community among the class members by putting faces to names and building connections between students. By sharing your own Flipgrid, you can provide a bit of information about yourself and give your students the ability to share their interests.

Moving Forward

In these challenging times inside and outside of the classroom, motivating students can feel difficult. We are one of many things vying for our students’ attention. By implementing some of the tips above, I hope you find your students to be more motivated, engaged and successful in class.

To learn more about fostering meaning student connections, watch our Empowered Educator webinar on fostering connections, and read the Cengage Student Engagement Handbook.