Four Ways to Stay Motivated in School

The sun is shining longer. The weather is getting warmer. And people are itching to come out of their pandemic caves. 

In a normal school year, students tend to feel their motivation dwindle during springtime. You’ve already pushed through most of the year. You’re tired from the winter season. You just want to get some fresh air and relax. But you’re faced with the looming rain cloud of final exams. 

Factor in the added fatigue from the pandemic, and it’s no wonder if you’re struggling to stay motivated right now. Here are four strategies that you can use to stay motivated in school.

Strategy 1: Develop a Growth Mindset

There are two basic types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. When we’re driven by extrinsic motivation, we’re motivated by some external factor like receiving a reward or avoiding a punishment. Maybe you want to look smart in class or avoid a stressful conversation with your parents about grades. When we’re driven by intrinsic motivation, we’re motivated by our own internal enjoyment, curiosity, or sense of meaning that we derive from an activity. According to psychology researchers, intrinsic motivation lasts longer and results in higher quality learning.

But how do we become intrinsically motivated to do things we don’t enjoy? Developing a growth mindset may help.

Learners with growth mindset tend to embrace lifelong learning and the joy of incremental personal growth. In addition, they do not see their intelligence or personality as fixed traits.

— Betsy Ng, The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation

Growth mindset means finding value and purpose in an activity. It means finding motivation in how that activity contributes to your personal growth, even if it’s not enjoyable. Studies show that students who learned to think this way performed better academically and were more willing to face new challenges. 

If you’re struggling to find motivation in a course, try answering these questions for yourself:

How can I grow from this course?

How can I make the most of this assignment?

How does giving my best in this subject help me become the person I want to be?

Strategy 2: Ask for Help

If all of this feels overwhelming so far, that’s normal. It’s actually extremely challenging to motivate yourself without support from others. You may be working hard to find purpose in your course, but sometimes your teacher’s instruction methods, the course design, or some factor in your personal environment can get in your way. 

Positive, supportive relationships help students’ success and motivation. Think of the people in your life who are on your side and want you to succeed. Maybe it’s your favorite teacher, your parents or guardians, or a friend that you want to be more like. Try starting a conversation with those people about getting your motivation back.

Strategy 3: Give Your Teachers Feedback

Teachers play a huge role in defining what your class experience feels like. If you’re struggling to stay motivated in a particular class, try to think about what has and hasn’t worked for you. Sure, there’s always going to be subjects that you don’t enjoy. But think of the teachers who have gotten you excited. Whose classes have you looked forward to? Why have you looked forward to them? 

When you have an idea of what works for you in class settings, try sharing this information with your teachers. Focusing on what helps you learn best rather than on what they may or may not be doing helps keep the conversation open and positive.

You might be surprised by how willing some teachers are to help you enjoy a better learning experience.

Strategy 4: Join a School that Supports Your Interests

Traditional school designs may not always support you becoming more intrinsically motivated. Intrinsically motivated students tend to focus more on mastering subject matter. On the other hand, extrinsically motivated students tend to focus more on performance outcomes, like test grades.

The problem? Traditional school designs and standardized testing incentivize you to focus on performance outcomes, not skill mastery.

Researchers have found that when rewards and sanctions are attached to performance on tests, students become less intrinsically motivated to learn and less likely to engage in critical thinking. In addition, they have found that high-stakes tests cause teachers to take greater control of the learning experiences of their students, denying their students opportunities to direct their own learning.

Amrein and Berliner

If you feel like traditional schooling is stifling your motivation, consider joining a school with a more innovative approach.

How Sora Supports Students’ Interests

Sora is a unique virtual high school that empowers students to pursue their passions. Students at Sora don’t just follow a rigid set of courses. They customize their learning journeys based on their interests. Sora is designed to help you want to learn.

I chose to go to Sora because it offered a community of people that seemed to have a similar level of curiosity about the world as me, which has been a rare occurrence outside of Sora. Sora also offered the opportunity to explore learning in the way of my choosing through their project system. This is attractive because being able to choose my own topics keeps me motivated and curious.

— Campbell, Student at Sora

Sora has also done away with traditional, standardized testing. Instead, we focus on mastery-based learning. Students earn credit by demonstrating their skills through projects. This way students are rewarded for using their knowledge rather than getting a high test score.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sora, click here to speak with our admissions team.

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