• Aaron Daffern

Take CHARGE of the Classroom #6: Motivation


This is post #6 in a 20-post series designed to disrupt outdated behavior management models and help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. This post contains excerpts from my book Take CHARGE of the Classroom.


There’s a hidden variable in the equation of student achievement. The way I viewed it at the time, curriculum (content) multiplied by pedagogy (execution) equaled achievement.

Curriculum x pedagogy = achievement

If my students weren’t successful on the final exam, then I needed to either do a better job of finding a quality curriculum or executing the lesson plan. Through my experience with my students, a formerly missing variable emerged as the mediator of both curriculum and pedagogy.

(Curriculum x pedagogy)motivation = achievement

As hard as I tried to teach and create engaging lessons, the students had to meet me there. All my blood, sweat, and tears were wasted if I couldn’t bring the students along with me. If they weren’t motivated, I’d never help them be as successful as I wanted them to be.


Biology and chemistry, fractions and poetry hold little intrinsic value to some students. They don’t think they’ll ever use that information in the real world and, if they do, they figure they can simply Google it. Without relevancy, some students will never engage with school no matter how many flashing lights we parade in front of them.

Other students disengage because of a lack of connectedness. They don’t feel like they are a part of a larger learning community, whether it be their classroom or even their school. They feel distant, alone, and adrift in a sea of facts and figures. When they don’t sense a strong human connection with others, either teachers or peers, many students lose the drive to push through difficult content and learn.

If students aren’t thriving in school, and we can reasonably assume that the curriculum is solid and the instructional practices are sound, then we must look elsewhere for solutions. The students themselves hold the key to increased engagement and achievement. If we can figure out how to motivate them, or more accurately, tap into the facet of motivation that most inspires them, then classroom management becomes an afterthought.

Engaged students rarely, if ever, misbehave.


What can you do tomorrow?

Reflect on your own motivation. Think about what motivates you to succeed in academic tasks. Your default teaching style will cater to this motivational drive.


Expand. Now consider a student that sometimes does not show interest in learning. Think about what they do enjoy and see if you can discover the disconnect. Adjust an upcoming lesson to include what motivates them to learn.


What does this look like in the classroom?

The teacher motivates students to engage in learning by:


· Offering students choices and opportunities to lead lessons;


· Highlighting real-word connections within the curriculum; and


· Providing timely feedback to build students’ competence.

Some students are highly motivated by competence. When they feel like they are able to accomplish a task, they feel engaged and ready to learn. They love building their proficiency through sequential learning. More importantly, these students need to have an expectancy of success. If they feel like the task is too difficult and out of their reach, they will quickly lose interest.