What to Do When Students Lack Interest

Helping Students Get Interested and Motivated

Lack of student interest and motivation can be quite a challenge for teachers to combat. Try these methods to get your students motivated and eager to learn.

Be Warm and Inviting in Your Classroom

Teenage girl (16-17) sitting in classroom, looking away
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No one wants to enter a home where they do not feel welcome. The same goes for your students. You and your classroom should be an inviting place where students feel safe and accepted.

Make Real World Connections for the Students

Research has shown over the years that students are more engaged when they feel that what they are learning is connected to life outside the classroom. In fact, the framework for 21st Century Skills and Standards focuses on engaging "... students with the real world data, tools, and experts they will encounter in college, on the job, and in life." Therefore, we must as educators attempt to show real world connections to the lesson we are teaching as often as possible.

Use Project-Based Learning

Solving real world problems as the beginning of the educational process instead of the end is quite motivating. Project-based learning is the idea that students start with a problem to solve, complete research, and then finally solve the problem using tools and information that you would typically teach in a number of lessons. Instead of learning information away from its application, this shows students how what they learn can be used to solve problems.

Make Learning Objectives Obvious

Many times what appears to be a lack of interest is really just a student afraid to reveal how overwhelmed they fell. Certain topics can be overwhelming because of the amount of information and details involved. Providing students with a road map through accurate learning objectives that shows them exactly what it is you want them to learn can help allay some of these concerns.

Make Cross-Curricular Connections

Sometimes students do not see how what they learn in one class intersects with what they are learning in other classes. Cross-curricular connections can provide students with a sense of context while increasing interest in all classes involved. For example, having an English teacher assign students to read Huckleberry Finn while students in an American History class are learning about slavery and the pre-Civil War era can lead to a deeper understanding in both classes.

Magnet schools that are based around specific themes like health, engineering, or the arts take advantage of this by having all classes in the curriculum find ways to integrate the students' career interests into their classroom lessons.

Show How Students Can Use This Information in the Future

Some students are not interested because they see no point in what they are learning. A common theme among students is, "Why do I need to know this?" Instead of waiting for them to ask this question, why not make it part of the lesson plans that you create. Add a line in your lesson plan template that specifically relates to how students might apply this information in the future. Then make this clear to students as you teach the lesson.

Put the Students in Control

When education is non-participatory, students will lose interest. Students should be in charge of their own education. Of course, in practice, this does not always work. Nonetheless, by giving students more choice about the topics they learn and involving them in activities like project-based learning, students have more control leading to a greater sense of ownership and interest.

Provide Incentives for Learning

While some people do not like the idea of giving students incentives to learn, the unmotivated and uninterested might need these to get involved. Incentives and rewards can be everything from free time at the end of a class to a 'popcorn and movie' party. Make it clear to students exactly what they need to do to earn their reward and keep them involved as they work towards it together as a class.

Give the Students a Goal Larger Than Themselves

Have students work towards a worthy goal. Maybe you can partner with a school in another country or work towards a service project as a group. Any type of activity that provides students with a reason to be involved and interested can reap huge benefits in your class. Scientific studies even prove that charitable activities are related to better health and well-being.

Use Hands-On Learning and Include Supporting Materials

By involving more senses than simply sight and/or sound, student learning is taken to a new level. When students are able to feel artifacts or be involved in experiments, the information being taught can acquire more meaning and spark more interest.