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MyTutor Tips & Features

5 tips to engage students with low motivation

This is a guest blog written by Ella Machin, an English and Science tutor on MyTutor.

It can be really hard to approach lessons when it seems like pupils aren’t motivated or engaging. Low motivation can often show up as withdrawal, unresponsiveness and an apparent lack of effort. This can be disheartening as a tutor, and can make lessons feel difficult.

There are many reasons why students may be lacking motivation to engage in lessons. Perhaps they don’t believe that they can improve, or they may even have personal challenges making it more difficult for them to focus and engage. Often a lack of motivation is a sign of lack of confidence. Students may not believe that they’re capable of achieving and are put off from trying.

Here are 5 tips that can help you engage these pupils. 

  1. Be positive when communicating

Communicating in a positive and encouraging way can really help to engage and encourage your pupils. It also helps establish a good rapport which can be encouraging for pupils, and help them to feel supported.

Working with pupils who find it difficult to engage and complete tasks requires kindness and patience. Praising effort and recognising small amounts of progress can help students to feel encouraged and rewarded. Giving feedback constructively and making sure to offer positives as well as improvements is a great way to guide improvement without leaving pupils feeling discouraged.

It can also help to give students options for ways of communicating. Some pupils might prefer to share ideas verbally, whereas others may feel more comfortable sharing using the chat function. Giving these options may make pupils feel more comfortable in contributing. 

  1. Don’t overload your students with information

Being overloaded with lots of information or tasks all at once can be daunting to pupils and reduce their motivation massively. To combat this, it can be helpful to split lessons into smaller, more manageable chunks and maybe even break up tasks with small activities. This’ll make completing work seem more achievable. Also, offering praise for completion of each chunk can help to give your pupils a sense of accomplishment that will hopefully encourage them to continue.

  1. Make learning fun

Including fun activities can also help pupils to feel more motivated. Learning and testing of content can be done through different creative tasks such as word searches or matching pairs activities. These could be starter activities to ease into the lesson, ways of breaking up a lesson or ways of testing recall. If it feels like your student’s motivation drops after some time, taking small “brain breaks” can be really good to re-motivate them to continue with the lesson.

If you know any of your students’ interests, it could also be appealing and motivating to include these in your lesson activities.

  1. Build up work gradually and with support

Pupils may feel daunted if they’re being asked to complete complex or difficult tasks and this can make them less likely to want to approach them. This can be tackled by starting with the basics and building up incrementally to avoid overwhelming them.

It could also be helpful to give worked examples or adopt an “I do, you do, we do” approach, where you start by showing them how to answer and then try a task together before asking the student to approach it on their own. This can help them build up the confidence to tackle the task alone and they may then feel more motivated to complete the tasks. 

  1. Adapt to students’ needs

Students might face additional barriers to engaging in sessions which may lower their motivation so it’s important to try and adapt to their individual needs. Pupils are more likely to avoid approaching work that feels inaccessible. Trying to ensure that work is accessible to the level that they’re at as well as adapting to their individual learning styles and needs can really help them to engage.

This also includes taking into account some of the more practical elements of your lessons. For example, using certain colours or fonts may be helpful for some students with dyslexia or structuring lessons slightly differently may help some neurodiverse pupils. Keep an eye out, as teachers may have provided some of this information in the pupil’s notes.

To summarise, tutoring pupils who don’t seem motivated or engaged in sessions can be really challenging for tutors. However, there are many possible reasons for pupils not feeling motivated and there are lots of things you can do to try and encourage them to engage more.

Tutoring is an excellent opportunity to help these pupils feel encouraged and inspired to learn as well as help them build their confidence and shift their mindset.

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