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Motivation in a Secondary Classroom

When teachers define, create and facilitate positive classroom climates, they must undoubtedly consider how their pupils will be motivated. Adam Boxer (2019) describes motivation as a ‘complicated beast’, with pupils being ‘motivated by a whole host of competing and intertwined factors.’ Your climate will inevitably prioritise the nurturing of pupils’ intrinsic motivation so they find themselves engaging in learning ‘because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable’ (Ryan and Deci 2000). Making use of certain extrinsic motivations to reach that ultimate goal may be necessary in the form of specific praise to encourage desired behaviours (Willingham 2008).

As you watch this video of classroom practice, consider how the teacher:

  • talks about circling to identify useful responses to be shared more widely
  • uses praise to build pupils’ confidence
  • supports pupils to improve their answers
  • signals that she’s seen a student who’s waiting for her support
  • varies her questioning to encourage pupils to articulate their thinking


Whether you’re setting out with a new class and establishing your classroom climate or revisiting it, take some time to reflect on what the teacher has done, how they’ve done it, what they might have done differently, and how this might influence your own practice.


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    1. Boxer A (2019) What is the best way to motivate students in your subject? Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/what-is-the-best-way-motivate-students-your-subject/ (accessed 11 May 2020).
    2. Ryan R and Deci E (2000) Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55(1): 68–78.
    3. Willingham D (2008) Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Should Learning Be Its Own Reward? Available at: https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2007-2008/willingham (accessed 11 May 2020)
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