“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

When Einstein first made this statement, many questioned his logic. With educators viewed simply as ‘teachers’, there to offload information and provide answers as they’re needed; teachers taught, students listened. But providing students with the answers and encouraging them to learn is no longer enough. With technology’s ever-growing influence, 21st century students now have every answer they need, when they need it. So what’s the role of the educator? Rather, as Einstein aptly points out, educators are not there to teach, but to help students to learn. To really learn, students need to acquire the skills to become self-educators, independent learners, and critical thinkers. So how do we motivate students to take on these empowering roles?

#1. Create a Student-Centered Learning Environment

A student-centered learning environment encourages a new approach to education, placing students squarely at the center. Here, student voice and choice are encouraged and facilitated as educators take on an even more pivotal role as “guide on the side”. As Larry Ferlazzo points out in his post ‘Strategies for Helping Students Motivate Themselves’, by taking an active role in their own learning and growth, students are given the tools to motivate themselves, becoming self-educators who help one another, digging deeper to find the answers instead of simply asking the teacher.

#2. Incorporate a Variety of Learning Models

Terry Heick in his description of what constitutes a highly effective learning environment explains the importance of using a variety of models to suit every bit of content, curriculum and learning diversity that fills your classroom. Among these are project-based, inquiry-based, problem-based, flipped, mobile and blended learning, all of which revolve around the 5 C’s of 21st century education, encouraging students to question, explore, and investigate in a way that works for them.

#3. Provide Personalized Support

We’ve previously discussed the three essential ways to motivate students to succeed; autonomy, mastery and purpose, all of which depend on the personalized support only guaranteed with the help of learning platforms built for that purpose. Fishtree incorporates competency-based progression to allow for mastery of skills within an environment that’s continuously personalized and supported, tailoring the learning experience to each student’s needs. Using tools like these, educators allow students to motivate themselves to succeed in an environment that helps them every step of the way.

#4. Encourage Self-Assessment

In her blog post, ‘Self-Assessment Inspires Learning’, Dr. Lori Desautels explains, “Self-reflection is self-assessment, and one of the most significant learning tools we can model for our students.” As Desautels states, what makes superior teachers is often their ability to self-reflect, analyzing every lesson and changing their methods on a continuous basis to meet the different need levels of their students. By encouraging students to engage in self-assessment, they’re given the tools to progress to the best of their ability, breaking down feedback, and learning from their mistakes.

#5. Allow for Self-Paced Progression

Without the ability to move at their own pace, students often become frustrated and lose sight of their learning goals. Within student-driven, self-paced learning environments students are proven to learn better, reaching their objectives in a way that works for them. Using the three motivational factors of autonomy, mastery and purpose that are built into adaptive platforms like Fishtree, educators can encourage students to progress at their own pace without adding to their workload. Acting as an added support, as well as a gateway for teachers into student learning, the system easily encourages students along the path to self-discovery and self-education.

Like what you’ve read? Help your students to become self-educators with Fishtree’s adaptive learning platform, bringing 1:1 instruction to every classroom.

About the author:


Lorna Keane specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Image credits: John Morgan / CC BY 2.0