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5 Ways to Motivate Students Who Don’t Want to Study

Our motivation is central to our behavior! Motivation influences HOW we show up and WHY we show up. Sometimes, we all need an extra-boost of motivation to be at our best. Here are 5 ways to motivate your student when they do not want to study.

Recognize Growth, Not Innate Talent

Early on, students gravitate toward certain subjects. They may identify themselves as students that have the ability to excel in math but not in language arts. Fostering a growth mindset is something that takes time. However, simple and specific feedback allows a student to see that learning is attainable.

Start by acknowledging your student’s hard work. Perhaps, you noticed your student spent three nights this week scouring his or her math textbook or asked to stay late in order to attend the science tutorials this week. When discussing the next test grade, there should be improvement even if it is small. Afterall, hard work produces results! Simply stating how you noticed the extra determination this week and encouraging this behavior to continue can go a long way! We also learn by example. Share stories or model learning a new skill. Be sure to be transparent about overcoming obstacles. Showing your student how to “fail forward” will help them build resilience and grit.

Use Rewards

The debate over reward systems is common in educational literature. First, we must understand intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation stems from the individual and their satisfaction, while extrinsic motivation engages a behavior in order to earn a reward or avoid punishment. This may come as a surprise, but offering a reward for an activity that someone finds pleasing and interesting could take some of the satisfaction away from the activity in the long run! Common extrinsic motivators in education are gold stars, monetary rewards, and extra recess; however, working with the student to find the intrinsic value of the task is a more powerful way to encourage personal ownership of his or her learning experience. Someone that is intrinsically motivated is curious and persists when obstacles arise!

Make It Manageable

At Staying Ahead of the Game, our coaches know that a well-thought out plan is necessary for success. Use planning systems to help your students stay motivated by building what we call “success momentum”. As Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion states, “a body in motion tends to stay in motion”. Help your student build momentum with small wins. Take a large assignment, such as an essay, and break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. On each smaller task, put a due date! For tests, divide the content into subjects that will be studied periodically throughout the week in short bursts. Oftentimes, procrastination can set it in when the task feels too large or a student doesn’t see progress. Planning is the antidote to the procrastination plague.

Harness the Power of Peers

For an upcoming test, it could be helpful to arrange a group study session. Students are greatly influenced by their peers, especially up to the age of 15! One great way to positively capitalize on this truth is to encourage group study sessions. Groups should be small in order to avoid too much distraction. Mastery occurs when one student can teach the material to another. Peer-to-peer review also encourages students to think critically about the information in a stress-free environment.

Establish a Routine

Establishing a routine early in the school year is important. However, it is mid-semester and you are noticing that your student is lacking motivation to study, consider a non-confrontational conversation regarding a new routine! By this time, extracurricular activities are in full gear and your student should have an idea of the teachers’ expectations in his or her classes. Work as a team to create a habitual study plan that the two of you think will be beneficial. Taking some of the willpower out of the decision to study by creating a routine often solves the problem. Habits are powerful.



Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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