Reluctant Learners

How to Motivate Reluctant Learners

How to motivate Reluctant Learners

As I am currently teaching a ‘Reluctant Learner’ I began to do a little research as it is a challenging issue amongst Educators and Parents. So I though I would write my own take on it.

It isn’t too difficult to identify children who lack motivation and are reluctant learners, the question is how to help them. How can we as educators, teachers and parents help this type of student?

To begin with it is important to understand that being a reluctant learner is not a behaviour problem although it can cause many sleepless nights!  Children and teenagers show a mix of characteristics. They may appear sullen, miserable or socially pleasant. However they have one shared very telling characteristic in common –a frustration with school! They are simply not interested in school. They will avoid tasks and do just enough to get by but never enough to excel.

According to Joyce M.Herzog, a teacher and author of many educational products, a reluctant learner “is not interested in life at all, is not interested in what you are teaching, and is not able to learn in the time-frame or manner of presentation”(2002)

Despite this, reluctant learners are in fact very capable and often have a high degree of potential.  Sadly their confidence levels are practically non-existent, they rarely believe in their potential, they don’t see their own abilities and are most fearful of failing.

What causes a reluctant learner’s unmotivated behaviour? 

Learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, ADD and Communication Disorders as well as anxiety and peer pressure are just some of the issues that cause a student to be a reluctant or unmotivated learner. Students with these disabilities are unfortunately often seen as disadvantaged when it comes to learning in a typical school setting.

So what can  educators, teachers and parents do?

Helping these students is more about the heart than the head. Emotions drive learning. The way you make your students feel takes precedence over the knowledge you impart. Bearing this in mind what kind of strategies can have a positive impact on this type of student?  I recommend that you begin with these ‘12 Tips’

  1. Be interested in the student. Know what their interests and hobbies are and ask questions them. Provide learning materials that are relevant and show how what they are learning is valuable.
  2. Integrate technology – Make their environment fun and relevant. Give them tasks such as editing twitter and facebook posts. Use Siri to dictate, Google to search for things or get them to write a blog on a topic of their choice.
  3. Involve student’s in checking and evaluating their work
  4. Be Positive! Have positive expectation and never say what a student cannot do
  5. Set Goals that are achievable.
  6. Empathize with them
  7. Simplify tasks and Chunk information – break down tasks and have regular short breaks
  8. Regular breaks – This can be anything from a toilet break to watching a 5 minute YouTube video
  9. Be enthusiastic about their work – give them something for them to look forward to once their work is done
  10. Communicate with other parents and teachers if you have any concerns or worries.
  11. Encourage students to talk and Listen to them! – Ask them what’s wrong? How they are feeling today? Challenge students, but don’t embarrass, humiliate and make fun of them. Encourage them to discuss their concerns and worries, what’s behind the unwillingness to learn?
  12. Be fair and vigilant with home and school rules. Discipline major infractions and deal with minor infractions in a non-confrontational manor – ie: one on one.

If you need further advice or you feel the support of a Private Tutor might help please get in contact.


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