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How to Motivate Students and Make them Love You

Motivation in the classroom is the single biggest obstacle to a student's success. The key to being an effective teacher is to discover the best approach to creating a learning environment that not only gets the work done, but motivates students to want to do the work to their best ability. When a teacher begins designing their classroom there are two major categories that should be addressed, the leadership style and the way in which the material is presented. Leadership style is important because it sets the climate for the classroom. After conducting research the servant leadership style was found to create a very calm and supportive classroom (Greenleaf, 2008). The second area of importance is how the material will be presented to the students. There are many different theories that provide a good structure for presentation, however designing lessons based on the principles of Bloom's Taxonomy will provide students with the ability to take a topic or skill from rote memorization to the highest levels of understanding in one set of lessons (Clark, 2010).

To Begin

Developing a research based idea of how a teacher's classroom should operate and what the learning outcomes will look like is quintessential to becoming a professional educator. Danielson (2000) breaks this into four categories or domains for the educator. When beginning to develop these domains the professional educator needs to make sure the decisions made do not only fit the teacher's personality, but are also based on thorough research and can be defended. To begin, the educator needs to decide on the classroom environment they hope to create. Selecting a leadership style will determine the climate in the classroom.

Leadership is the ability to convince others to accomplish goals set forth by the leader or the group (Bass, 2007). In a business situation it is somewhat easier to lead because the followers usually have some vested interest in the outcome, however because of the maturity level of students in a classroom, this vested interest is not normally there. Looking at all of the different possible leadership styles gives the educator the opportunity to discover what will work best. Servant leadership described by Greenleaf (2008) is a style that turns the leader into a facilitator who has the main objective of removing obstacles that can hinder completion of the goals. The leader must be willing to complete any task asked of the followers that will produce the desired results. The servant leader gets longer lasting results, as this style allows the followers to become leaders themselves. This style is the most suited to the classroom, as it is designed so that the leader becomes a teacher as opposed to a leader that only gives orders (Vicalvi, 2006).

While having a good leadership strategy is the first step to creating a classroom that is possible to learn in, a second domain must be addressed in order for students to prosper. That domain is described by Danielson (2007) as instruction. In other words, how is the teacher going to help the students learn? In order to answer this question the professional educator needs to look for a constructivist theory that allow students to build on the knowledge they have already learned; Bloom's Taxonomy addresses this need (Clark, 2010). Bloom's Taxonomy was created in order to provide a framework not only for how people think, but to explain a system to teach an idea or skill in a manner from simple to complex. Using Bloom's Taxonomy as a guideline allows educators to take a topic and begin with its simplest essence and then move to a more complex understanding of the topic in a way that works with how the brain works. Essentially, this should be the basis for questioning techniques and assignment design by educators (St. John, 2009). The proper use of Bloom's Taxonomy can also address another domain, as it can become invaluable when it comes to planning and preparation.

Creating a calm, quiet classroom climate, coupled with a plan of how to present information and skills from simple to complex, any classroom can become a place where students not only learn, but become consumers of knowledge. While it may sometimes seem obvious that these choices should be made, having them as a researched based choice is what turns a teacher into a professional educator.

Looking at the Research

Beck (2010) used a mixed methods methodology to try and determine if a childhood or life experiences could predict servant leaders. This research was conducted because one of the major problems with servant leadership is the lack of empirical research that has been conducted. The mixed method research model was used because the researcher did not believe that only a qualitative or quantitative research study would give a complete picture of the topic. To begin, the researcher selected the servant leadership questionnaire (SLQ), this was divided into two parts. The two parts were the self-rater, completed by the leader in order for them to rate themselves, and the other rater part of the survey, given to people that had seen the leader work and could rate the leader as an observer. The SLQ was sent out to 822 people that had already completed a leadership training program. There was a 65% return rate; these leaders were then asked to select at least four people to complete the other rater part of the survey. In total, 731 people participated in the other rater portion of the survey. For the qualitative portion of the research design the twelve leaders rated the highest by the other raters were selected to participate in an in-depth interview process. The mean of the surveyed leaders was 3.19, and the selected leaders had a mean score of 3.74. In order to evaluate the quantitative data descriptive statistics and Pearson Correlations were used, these results were run through a one way and two way ANOVA to compare the populations. In addition, Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitney Non-Parametric test were conducted. The qualitative data was collected from professionally transcribed transcripts. Open Coding was then used multiple times in conjunction with axial coding to determine the six major themes; length of time as a leader, amount of time spent volunteering, building trusting relationships, Altruistic Mindset, interpersonal competence, and servant leaders not always being in the top leadership role. This researched determined that while nothing is 100 percent, there are some definite characteristics shared by those seen as servant leaders, and their life experiences play a role in their development.

Sultana (2010) conducted research of a method to teach educators a more accurate way to use the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy in the development of instructional and assessment materials. The researcher used a quasi-experimental design and studied two groups of teacher preparatory students and their reaction to different practice activities designed to teach the revised taxonomy. To begin, both groups were given a survey to determine prior knowledge. Next, each group was given the different treatments (practice activities). Finally, both groups were given a common twenty-question multiple choice post-test. The participants in the study were teacher certification candidates taking the class Introduction to Classroom Assessment. The class was presented with up to 29% of the content presented in an online format. Treatment 1 had 61 participants and Treatment 2 had 62 participants. Hetteling's T2 and two-way mixed ANOVA were used to evaluate the data and determine if there was any difference between the two treatment groups. The results showed there was no statistical difference between the two groups and the treatment had no effect on the participants. However, both groups showed that they did learn the tenants of both Bloom's and the Revised Taxonomy.

Subject Matter Knowledge

When making decisions about their classroom a professional educator always wants to develop an understanding of the subject matter they will be teaching. Students can easily determine if their teacher does not know what is being discussed. Therefore, it is important for the educator to stay current on the subject they are responsible for. The best way to accomplish this is for the teacher to make sure they continue their own education, whether it is in a formal setting or on their own. Leaders must demonstrate to their followers that they have an in-depth understanding of the topic, in order to create an environment that makes the follower want to follow (Bass, 2007). This makes developing an understanding of subject matter very important for the professional educator.

How Students Learn and Develop

Beginning with the earliest research on learning and how people learn, it has been determined that people learn in stages and the mind develops in levels, Piaget (as cited in Bransford, 2000). In later research Gardner (2008) discovered that there are multiple ways in which people learn and each has a preferred method. Keeping these two ideas in mind must be a priority for the professional educator when developing the basis for their lessons. Dweck (2007) also discusses the two mindsets of learners, growth and fixed, making this another concept for teachers to consider. Looking at these theories and using the research that has been done the professional educator will be able to create lessons that inspire and motivate all students to learn.

Role of the Teacher or Facilitator

When looking at the role of the teacher in a classroom, the place to begin is with their ability to be a leader. By defining the type of leader the educator wishes to be and then using the research to develop into that style of leadership, will define the role of the teacher in their classroom. Each educator should look at the varying leadership styles and determine which will work best in the classroom, Greenleaf's (2008) servant leadership can be used to create an environment in which the teacher can really teach, as this style addresses most of the issues students bring with them to the classroom. In essence, the students need to know or have internalized that their teacher cares about them as individuals. A growing trend seems to indicate an increased need in these areas, pointing toward the disconnection of face-to-face interaction in their student's outside of the academic setting. When used correctly, servant leadership creates an atmosphere where the students have their emotional needs met, allowing them to focus on the lessons presented. When students believe their teacher truly cares about them, then they are motivated to do as the teacher asks, as they do not want to 'disappoint' or let the person that believes in them down.

The role of the teacher in this leadership style is to create a safe environment for the students. Through the use of calm assertive energy, the teacher will work to remove the barriers preventing students from being able to learn. Since the main focus of all classrooms is for the students to learn, using servant leadership will allow the students to accomplish this goal.

Creating a Learning Environment

The first component of a good motivational leader is that they set the mood for the classroom. If the teacher brings high energy, the students will follow. A teacher that is a strong leader will also set the expectations for the students, and these expectations should be used to ensure that the students spend their time working to the best of their ability. As long as the educator sets high expectations and provides a calm atmosphere, students should be able to accomplish the goals the teacher has set for them (Bass, 2007).


Hawley (2007) explained that in order for schools to move from average to effective, the communication between the school and the parents must be at a level that allows the parents to understand everything being done in the school. This communication can take many forms from postcards, to parent meetings, to newsletters. The focus of this communication should be to not only address problems a student may be having, but time should be spent discussing positive things happening in the student's school life. An additional subject the parents should be aware of is everything that is going on in the school. These communications will not only keep that parents informed, they will also keep them aware of all of the positive activities the school has arranged in order to make connections with the community. Many school systems achieve this with an updated website or a newsletter sent home with students on a periodic basis. Students are motivated when they believe their parents are involved and interested in their success.

Monitor and Assess Growth

Since the main focus of any classroom is to ensure students learn, the professional educator will need to develop a way to determine if the students have actually learned. This needs to happen in more than one way, as each student will respond to assessments differently. Gardner's (2008) multiple intelligences explained that all people learn in different ways; therefore, in order for teachers to determine if the students have learned, the assignments should vary in style and substance. Dweck (2007) also discusses how the use of different types of grading approaches can keep the students motivated, and when the grading approaches are used properly, students can move from a fixed ability mindset, to a growth ability mindset, creating more motivation and, subsequently, more learning.

Reflective Practitioner

Becoming a professional educator that is considered to be a 'reflective practitioner' involves the use of critical thinking to evaluate what is happening in the classroom and then developing strategies to improve the situation. By its very nature, critical thinking is an ongoing process that should never reach a final solution (Brookfield, 2010). By constantly examining and re-examining various situations in the classroom then applying current research as a solution, each teacher can ensure that their classroom is always improving. This skill of self-evaluation is a key to constant improvement, and it is what sets the professional educator apart from the average or novice instructor.

Stakeholder Relationships

In today's climate of high stakes testing, and state programs geared towards incentive pay for teachers that can instruct and motivate students to perform on these tests, every institution of education must be working towards becoming an effective school. One of the key components to being considered an effective school is the inclusion of all of the stakeholders in the district (Hawley, 2007). This can be done in various ways from effective communication with the students about expectations, to effective communication with parents about the connection the school is making with the community, to an inclusion of local businesses and community officials into the process of creating the overall school community. This can be accomplished with the creation of advisory boards and making sure that when the school needs information, they communicate with the proper stakeholders. Making sure to include everyone that has an interest in the accomplishments of the school and its students shows the community that the school cares, but it also shows the students that more people are connected to their learning than just their parents and teachers. Many school systems have business partners in the community that not only donate monetarily to the school, but also mentor promising students, make presentations in the classrooms, and provide additional opportunities for students to take their learning beyond the classroom and to practical applications. The increase in motivation for impacted students becomes readily apparent as real world application of skills learned are experienced.


State and Federal governments are constantly creating bills and passing laws such as No Child Left Behind and - whether you agree with their methodology or not - they are intended to continually improve the public education system in America. The schools that learn to meet the requirements of such laws develop ways to fit what they already do into the criteria of these laws. However, in order for this continuous improvement to be real, each educator needs to feel the responsibility to take on these requirements at the classroom level. Creating a research-based classroom seems to be the newest in a long line of terms educators are supposed to embrace. Again, with only a small amount of effort teachers can meet the basic levels of this so they can say they have a research-based classroom that stimulates learning and provides opportunity for self-motivating opportunities. This compliance with the basics is nowhere near enough to reach what should be the ultimate goal of continuous improvement in classrooms.

As with our students, educators need to be held to higher expectations. When districts create professional development opportunities, each educator needs to embrace this chance to improve themselves and their teaching practices. It should be the responsibility of everyone, from the classroom teachers, to school administrators, to the district leadership to insure these higher expectations are met. Schools should feel the responsibility to make laws such as No Child Left Behind unnecessary and obsolete. In order to actually create social change in education, schools need to develop high standards for not only their students, but for everyone involved in their learning community. This is not going to happen until everyone involved is willing to embrace the challenge of real improvement in their school.

In order to begin a journey of social change, there needs to be more research into the different types of leadership used in classrooms and which, if any, are the most effective at the different levels of student development. However, this initial research will not be the end of the journey. Understanding that there is a need in education, in today's climate, for continuous improvement and that there is a need in every district for there to be someone in place to drive the improvement.

What has to be taken into account is that students do not understand the amount of work that goes into creating this type of classroom. They only understand if they enjoy how a teacher does things. School does not have to be a chore. As a matter of fact, it should be the exact opposite. Using the research mentioned here is the first step in many toward becoming a teacher that students love. Removing the fear of learning and just letting the students do their best is the key to motivating students.

The bottom line is that all the research in the world will not create this perfect classroom - that is done by teachers that love their job and their students. As teachers are held to higher and higher standards it is easy to forget that these are children they are dealing with. Since these students are children, teachers must create a learning environment designed with children in mind. This is what is going to motivate students to learn, which is the job teachers have chosen.


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