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10 Simple Ways to Motivate High School Students to Learn

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    10 Simple Ways to Motivate High School Students to Learn

    Motivation is one of the most important factors in a student’s ability to learn new material. Strongly motivated students are more likely to dig deeper into content and engage in critical thinking, helping them retain more information at a higher comprehension level. 

    In today’s fast-paced society, finding ways to engage your teen in their studies and encourage them to want to learn on their own can be a challenge. High school students often have busy schedules and social lives with many obligations vying for their attention and commitment. Luckily, there are many effective strategies to motivate students to learn. 

    Graphic: When students are motivated.

    What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

    There are two basic types of motivation — intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from your own interests and desires for the sake of achievement or satisfaction. 

    You may be intrinsically motivated to do something if it makes you feel good, challenges you, or gives you a sense of accomplishment. For example, you may enjoy reading because it satisfies a natural curiosity. Many high school students are intrinsically motivated to play sports because they have fun playing them. 

    Intrinsic motivation is a fundamental aspect of your student’s performance in academics. When students are intrinsically motivated in school, they are more likely to persevere when facing challenges, explore new content, and attach meaning to their work. These factors often lead to a more profound satisfaction in their schoolwork and higher performance levels. 

    Because intrinsic motivation comes from genuine interest or commitment to a subject, you can foster your student’s intrinsic motivation by giving them some autonomy, building up a sense of purpose and worth in their work, and encouraging them as they make progress. This can help your teen explore their skills and learn new material, inspiring them to master new subjects and techniques. 

    What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

    Opposite from intrinsic motivation is extrinsic motivation, which is when an external incentive — such as a reward or fear of punishment — motivates you to complete a task or follow a rule. Many teachers and coaches use extrinsic motivators in their classroom management to encourage their students to learn. 


    Grades are a form of extrinsic motivation. For some students, the pressure to receive good grades is enough to motivate them to dig into their studies and learn the material. Others need additional incentives to motivate themselves to do their work. Examples of extrinsic motivators include:

    • Special prizes
    • Competitions
    • Celebrations
    • Threats of a negative consequence 

    Extrinsic motivation can induce healthy competition among students and drive higher performance. It creates a tangible incentive with an achievable goal for students to work toward, making schoolwork, quizzes, and activities manageable tasks that push them toward their ultimate objective. 

    Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are valuable components of a student’s desire and ability to learn. Research suggests that balancing both types of motivators is the best way to encourage students to become interested in their learning. 

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    How to Motivate High School Students to Learn

    Each student is different and has a unique set of needs. To motivate your child to learn, use a variety of techniques to interest them in the material and see what works best. You may need multiple motivation strategies with both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives to engage your teen fully. Here are 10 simple strategies to help motivate your high school students to learn: 

    1. Make the Content Relevant

    Students have a natural inclination toward learning. What sometimes holds them back is the impression that the content isn’t relevant in their lives. When you show your teen practical ways the content can help them through life and explore the relevance of the information, you can help them develop into engaged, self-regulated learners

    2. Set Weekly Goals and Rewards

    Making achievable goals with tangible rewards is an excellent way to give high schoolers a marked display of their progress and success. Rewards such as a pizza party, prize, or extra privilege can give students an extrinsic motivator that encourages them to keep going when they hit an obstacle or challenging concept.

    3. Give Feedback

    Timely feedback is a valuable component of learning and a powerful motivation tool. Giving your high schooler notes on what they’re doing correctly and incorrectly reinforces important concepts and gives them a chance to adjust their strategies as needed. When students get immediate feedback, they are more likely to remember and apply what they’ve learned in the future. 

    4. Encourage Self-Reflection

    Self-reflection is a great way to get students to evaluate their performance, look for areas of improvement, and figure out how to engage their intrinsic motivation. Asking your teen to self-reflect can lead to deeper learning and a stronger sense of independence. 

    5. Make It Fun

    One of the easiest ways to motivate your student is to turn learning into a fun activity. Brainstorm ways to make the topics your student is learning into a game or interactive activity. Engaging students’ creativity and sense of fun will keep them entertained, interested, and increase their retention. 

    6. Give Students a Sense of Control

    Many students are more likely to learn if they are under the impression that they chose to do so. A sense of autonomy can increase students’ intrinsic motivation and encourage them to put more effort into their work. Encouraging teens to choose the topics they research or read about may motivate them to produce better results. 

    7. Use Positive Competition

    Healthy competition can help students develop valuable teamwork skills or push them to work harder individually to win the game. Positive competition can also foster mental toughness and growth mindsets. 

    8. Allow Students to Work Together

    Collaborative learning supports deeper thinking and an increased understanding of diverse perspectives. Small groups hold students accountable in a more public setting, promoting critical thinking and oral presentation skills and motivating them to produce in-depth responses. 

    9. Model an Enthusiasm for Learning More

    Teens may mirror your energy as a parent. If you can show your student you’re passionate about the content and excited to share it with them, they are more likely to receive that information positively. When students are enthused about learning, they’re more likely to retain information and remember it longer. 

    10. Help Students Find Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is the most powerful motivator. Foster your teen’s intrinsic motivation by giving them some autonomy in their studies, recognizing and praising their progress, and promoting a sense of purpose in their learning. Encourage your child to work harder on what interests them to build up their intrinsic motivation in school. 

    Graphic: Learn more.

    Learn More From CCA

    Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) strives to let kids’ natural curiosity and interests direct their learning with a personalized curriculum. CCA prepares its learners for success by fostering an enriching community that supports independence and confidence for each member. 

    At CCA, your child receives lessons customized to their specific needs from state-certified and specialized teachers. Parents can serve as learning coaches for their children and bond with them through learning.

    Find out how CCA can keep your student motivated and learning, and contact CCA online today!


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    July 19th, 2022


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