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This blog post provides a great summary of a chapter from our recently published book, Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results. The chapter was written by Chris Lien, a Tutor Doctor franchisee out of San Diego.

Motivation can be defined as “a force that compels a person to take action towards a desired purpose or goal.” Levels of motivation can be a huge factor in determining someone’s success. But what exactly is motivation, and where does it come from? Although we may be inclined to believe that talent, money, and other tangible factors are primarily responsible, research has shown that this isn’t necessarily the case. What often separates successful from unsuccessful people is rather an intangible element of personal motivation and self-confidence.

When we think of motivation, sports and athletes often come to mind. Coaches point to several key factors that combine to form motivational qualities in superior athletes, and students can benefit by applying these principles to other areas of their lives, including academically. Some of these motivational factors include:

  • Goal-orientation
  • Teachability
  • Perseverance
  • Self-control
  • Accountability
  • Others-orientation
  • Tireless work ethic

These traits can’t be acquired simply by reading or learning about them, but rather require years of dedication and continuous maintenance. Famous inventor Thomas Edison is often referred to when discussing principles motivation, as he experienced many notable failures throughout his lifetime (including during the development of some of his most widely-used inventions). Edison was known to have had thousands of failed attempts when developing the light bulb – however, he was able to see these failures not at setbacks, but as steps of advancement towards his final goal. Many of the aforementioned traits – from perseverance to tireless work ethic – are reflected in this famous quote from Edison: “I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Although there are many historical perspectives on motivation, an important modern concept, especially in the educational field, is self-efficacy – or, an individual’s confidence in his or her own ability to achieve something. Theories of self-efficacy are often paired with goal-setting theories, since people employ these motivational behaviors to reach their goals. Regardless of the perspective, it is without a doubt important to remember that self-confidence plays a large role in motivation – and ultimately, success. For example, if you find your student is struggling in math, they may not be motivated to study because they lack confidence in their own ability to solve problems correctly. In a way, it can be a vicious cycle. Positive reinforcement can be a great way to motivate!

Whether you call it determination, drive, or motivation, for today’s students to be successful, they must be actively moving toward a vision or goal they have personally set for themselves. Many students don’t have a goal yet. Parents, teachers, peers, and many others are excellent resources that can help a student define what they want – their own personal goal. In fact, studies show that people with the greatest degree of positive motivation are those who invite people into their lives that offer them praise and encouragement. As far as external factors are concerned, the people you surround yourself with are a huge determining factor in motivation (and ultimately, self-confidence).

Motivation can come in many forms – both internally and externally. Here are some great Tutor Doctor recommendations to help build a student’s motivation for learning!

  • Encourage him/her not to have total dependence on the parent to accomplish simple tasks and assignments. Even with little things – household chores, waking up for school themselves, etc.
  • Set goals according to the SMART paradigm (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound). It is best to start small and progressively increase the complexity of your tasks as you move towards your goal.
  • Set and communicate a block of time for independent work and set aside time to answer questions or review the finished product afterwards.
  • Praise the student for the work accomplished, even if it wasn’t fully completed on time. This positive praise will motivate the student to work harder next time.
  • Reward systems may be implemented to encourage the student to complete each task. This obviously ranges depending on the student’s age – younger children are often motivated by candy or trinkets in classrooms, whereas older students may prefer a gift card to their favorite coffee shop.

You can do a lot for your student just by offering them words of encouragement. Help your student to set goals and develop their own sense of personal motivation to maximize potential, as well as their enjoyment of life’s journey!

Learn more about our book ‘Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results’ HERE.

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