Motivated students want to learn and are less likely to be disruptive or disengage from the work of the classroom. Motivation stems from numerous factors: interest in the subject matter, perceptions of its usefulness, general desire to achieve, self-confidence and self-esteem, patience and persistence, among them.

Students also are motivated by their individual values, needs, desires and wants. Some students are stimulated by the approval of others; some by the academic challenge; and others by the passion of the teacher.

All of these factors have a role in how the behaviors of students play out in a typical day in the classroom.

Hear Marcos Torres, a teacher at Corona High School in Corona, Calif., speak about his strategies for motivating students to more fully engage in the learning process.

Look For:

  • What type of student does Marcos identify as his biggest challenge?
  • How do you motivate students like the one Marcos identifies in his video clip?

Reflect On:

  • What are ways listed in the review that students actively practice "not-learning"?
  • What does "not-learning" do for the student's sense of self?
  • What is the difference between "not-learning" and "failure"?
  • How do your own students "not-learn"?


Ready Resources:

Teaching to Encourage Motivation (pdf)


Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment ($16), by James Garbarino, explains how we can make choices and decisions that strengthen children and work against the social toxicity that surrounds us. Jossey-Bass Publishers. ISBN 0-7879-5042-4

Teaching to Transgress ($18.45), by Bell Hooks, speaks to how we can rethink teaching practices in the age of multiculturalism. Routledge Publications. ISBN 0-415-90808-6

Lisa Delpit's The Skin We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom ($12.21) is a thoughtful exploration of the varieties of English we speak and the layers of politics, power and identity those varieties carry. The New Press. ISBN 1-56584-544-7

Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest ($20.95) is Patrick Finn's groundbreaking work on the resistance of working-class children to the kind of education they often receive. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-4286-1

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes($26.56), by Alfie Kohn, is about how rewards are manipulative and ultimately do more harm than good. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-65028-3

Susan Ohanian's One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards ($18) is a defiant, witty commentary on an overblown pro-standards movement. Heinemann. ISBN 0-325-00158-8

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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