Motivate Students for Classroom Success

February 2, 2024

As educators, you’re committed to ensuring your students succeed. As we find ourselves going through the daily motions, we often forget about the bigger picture: to help all students prepare for the next grade and beyond. 

Research shows that motivation is an orientation toward learning and is the determining factor in the likelihood of a student pursuing a task or forgoing it. We’ve learned that keeping it simple leads to the most success! 

Let’s discuss four ways to foster student motivation: 

1. Positive reinforcement

2. Appropriately challenging tasks

3. Mastery-focused goals

4. Opportunities for success 

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement in the classroom is a powerful tool for helping students to achieve certain behaviors. Celebrating achievements reinforces to students that reproducing those good outcomes leads to more good outcomes. Students are motivated because exploration and learning are celebrated and encouraged. The best outcome is that students develop self-agency. They complete tasks successfully because they are self-motivated and enjoy the feeling of personal achievement. 

The key is timely, consistent, and meaningful reinforcement during a student’s learning journey. If you’re using an instructional software program with your students, ensure it provides students with a clear insight into how they are performing. By celebrating with students when they achieve the desired mastery they will be motivated to achieve that mastery going forward. When they don’t, they are more motivated to keep trying. Classworks provides students the opportunity to re-do an activity if they feel they haven’t done their best, giving them ownership over their learning. 

Unsure of what to say to encourage students? A “Good Job!” can go a long way, but adding some flair that’s specific to you and the student makes their accomplishments even sweeter. 

Appropriately Challenging Tasks

Often, students who are struggling in school feel discouraged and frustrated leading to low confidence. However, when they work on appropriately challenging tasks and receive positive feedback for their efforts they will remember how it made them feel and seek that feeling again and again. 

It can be difficult to provide students with exactly what they are ready to learn if you have a large classroom of students with diverse needs. This is where instructional technology is particularly impactful. For example, Classworks provides every student with an individualized learning path based on their latest assessment results. Students are always working on instruction that is challenging but at the level they are ready to learn. They receive insight into their scores immediately and the ability to redo activities if they feel they didn’t do their best. This structure supports the concept of flow theory, which explains how when a student gets in the rhythm of working, few things will interrupt their learning when engaging in the right level of instruction. It’s finding the sweet spot of learning and exploring that builds on intrinsic motivation. 

Mastery Focused Goals

Students want to be successful. To do so, we often have to set small stepping stones of achievements to be able to accomplish bigger ones. For instance, if a student is trying to close foundational learning gaps they may be working several grades below in some domains. Mastery is mastery though, no matter the learning gap. It’s important to foster a classroom that offers a safe learning environment focused on mastery of appropriately challenging work - start with a fun and inspiring bulletin board.

Use goal setting to motivate students and help them with accountability. Classworks has a SMART Goal Tracker to support students' academic goals. When creating goals, start small and meet students where they are. Remember that we want to create new and more frequent memories of successes and celebrations. Perhaps the larger goal is to achieve 80% mastery overall and spend 90 minutes per month on their individualized instruction. However, It may take smaller, incremental goals first.

Opportunities for Success

Offering students the opportunity to redo activities with low mastery reinforces self-awareness and ownership. More opportunities for success teach students resiliency. Students can step away, process, and come back with a refreshed perspective or a new strategy and try again. This encourages learning rather than focusing on the “bad” grade. Students feel proud of the strides they’re making and relates to the achievement goal theory where students are focusing on what they’re accomplishing and mastering versus the individual completed tasks. In Classworks, students can clearly see their scores and have the opportunity to redo activities once if they aren’t happy with their score. 

The benefits of motivating students are clear. Their confidence and performance are positively impacted! Here are 100 ideas for motivation and incentives to get you started! 

Speaking of motivating, don't forget about the Classworks All-Star Contest, where we celebrate the students with the highest time-on-task and mastery. We also just added some nifty new ideas to our bulletin board kit that will add some creative flair to your classroom! For more specific ideas on how to build incentive programs chat with us at or email

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