How can I help my students assume more control over their learning?

As teachers, we would like every student to be a motivated learner; however, our students have had different experiences with education and have differing amounts of confidence in themselves as learners. While the bad news may be that not every student is a motivated learner, the good news is that there are things we can do as teachers that will help students become more motivated to learn.

Factual Information

Some interesting research on student motivation was conducted by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck found that most students fell into one of two types of learners. One type of student believes that their ability is fixed and there is nothing they can do to change it. This type of learner often avoids situations in which they might fail because they believe that if they fail, the failure will point out what they believe is their lack of intelligence. The other type of student believes that their ability and success are due to the efforts that they put into learning. They understand that learning requires effort and takes time and seem to focus more on their growth and learning. They do not believe that their abilities are fixed but rather have a mindset of growth. Dweck's research has led her to conclude that students' mindsets are not fixed but that teachers can help students develop a growth mindset.

Teachers can help students develop a growth mindset by:

  • Teaching the child strategies instead of judging the student negatively
  • Helping the students understand that mistakes and errors are a natural part of the learning process
  • Stressing that effort is important for learning
  • Comparing the child's progress to their prior work rather than his or her peers
  • Working to stimulate the child's intrinsic interest in learning

Classroom Activities

Consider the strategies that you use in your classroom to motivate students. Do the strategies you use focus on helping students to understand that mistakes are a part of learning? Do they help students understand the role that effort plays in their learning?


Discuss the issue of student motivation with colleagues. What effective strategies do your colleagues use to motivate students?

Resources and Links