Motivation Activation

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The effort to ignite motivation in young people is one of the most vital we can engage in. From helping them discover their talents and interests, to encouraging them to follow their dreams, to giving them the tools and skills they need to realise their goals, parents and teachers are the most crucial motivators in any young person’s life.

What is motivation?

As the force that drives action, motivation is essentially an energy that needs fuel. So where do we find it? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs outlines five levels of human motivation. From base to peak, the needs are:

  • physiological (food and shelter),

  • safety (security),

  • belonging (relationships),

  • esteem (accomplishment), and

  • self-actualisation (fulfilment).

According to Maslow, as we meet the lower levels, we naturally pursue the higher ones –  and we all have an inborn desire to ultimately reach our full potential.

Where the pandemic impacted our needs on several levels – our safety in the health crisis, our relationships in social distancing, our daily sense of accomplishment – this has impacted many young people on their journey to reach their goals. Now in reuniting with their friends at school, with the government and NHS working successfully to restore public health, young people can be encouraged to reconnect with their longer-term goals, to refocus on accomplishment and rediscover their drive to succeed.

Academic motivators

The in-built processes of academia continue to be key motivators. UCAS and university admissions are highly motivating for A level students, as that future target guides, focuses and fuels their studies. With UCAS upcoming for Year 12 and university offers coming in for Year 13, students can now find excitement in exploring their options further. University visits, looking at entrance requirements and choosing courses to study are processes that can bring the future to life in the present.

This spring, GCSE and A level students are entering an assessment season set to test their knowledge and skills in new and interesting ways. As outlined by Ofqual, the centre-based assessment structure will be tailored to the content covered in each school. Students are very much still in a position to help determine their results, as these assessments will result in the accomplishment of their GCSE and A Level credentials.

Counteracting demotivation

Practically speaking, the main causes of demotivation in students are:

  • having no reason to work,

  • feeling overwhelmed,

  • distractions, and

  • disliking work.

Here are some actions that can help to counteract these factors:

Thought: Why am I doing this?
The feeling that students ‘have no reason to work’ can be counteracted by reminding them of their interests, passions and dreams.

Action: Write down goals.
Putting pen to paper and writing down goals is a practice known to have realising and reifying effects.

Thought: I can’t do this.
Large quantities of work, accumulated and compounded by procrastination, can be daunting to tackle.

Action: Break work down.
To-Do lists and breaking projects down into smaller tasks can counteract the feeling of being overwhelmed. Time management tools, such as the Pomodoro Technique, can encourage focused work for shorter periods.

Thought: I can’t focus.
Distractions, particularly technological ones, can be counteracted with technological solutions.

Action: Block access.
App- and website-blocking technologies – such as Freedom, Forest and StayFocused – can be customised to block distracting apps and sites for chosen amounts of time.

Thought: I don’t want to do this.
There will always be parts of the curriculum that students like less, and it is common for students to dislike subjects they find overly challenging.

Action: Study socially.
Working with study groups and buddies can help to create camaraderie and external accountability, which can increase enjoyment.

How Oxford Tutors can help

Professional tutors and coaches can also be highly motivating, in sharing the passion we have for our subjects, and in helping to target key skills and topics with expertise and enthusiasm. An inspiring teacher who encourages a student can completely change their lives, and there is no better purpose.

We expert teachers know that motivation and emotional impact are what matter.  (Donald Norman)

— Katie Musgrave (katie.musgrave@oxfordtutors.com)
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