RVA Mentor Series Session One: "Motivating the Reluctant Learner"

If you missed the first RVA Mentor Series, no worries!
We recorded it!

Presented by the RVA’s own, Josh Duwe, presented the exciting topic: “Motivating the Reluctant Learner.” Josh has been on staff with the RVA for 3 years. He is the Activities Director, Blended Learning Coordinator, and a teacher with the RVA.  Josh has 17 years of teaching experience as a certified Math Teacher while holding a masters degree in School Counseling. In addition, Josh is a certified “Jack Canfield Success Coach” and an entrepreneurial Emcee/Disc Jockey of 28 years during his weekends. He and his wife are the parents of two school-aged children. Josh brings an unique perspective of motivation and achievement through his professional expertise, and his own experience gained from being a parent and life long learner.

8 Motivational Forces

These eight characteristics are found to different degrees in all people, and they combine to form the basis for how someone is motivated.

  • Gregariousness: A student who is gregarious has a need to belong. She enjoys working with others and derives satisfaction from successful interactions with classmates. She is motivated to initiate and maintain relationships with others.  These folks adore social interaction and love to be in a lively crowd. Gregarious folks love to be connected to others and hate to feel cast out in any way. When they’re comfortable, they’re friendly and may be great at both joining and leading.

  • Autonomy: This student is the opposite of the gregarious student. He prefers to work alone and likes projects where he can work independently and his success depends mostly on his own efforts.  In this case, the chance to work independently is a dream come true. A trip to a library study carrel is a treat, as is the chance to solve a problem alone in an office.

  • Status: The student motivated by status feels the need to be important. These type of students are motivated by how others see them, and this is how they gauge their performance. They are eager to please but must be directed towards pleasing the right behaviors for the classroom, and not, for example, pleasing other students who might want them to be the class clown or engage in negative behaviors for their amusement.  It’s important to know where you stand and to feel that you have maintained a strong, positive reputation. Criticism can feel crushing.

  • Inquisitiveness: This is mostly an intrinsic-based need, a strong sense of curiosity. These students have a natural desire to learn about all subjects and they value knowledge and information. They are easy to engage in new experiences and adding to their knowledge.  The need to know is a deep and powerful drive. When you’re curious about something, it’s a gift to be allowed to explore it without being restrained.

  • Aggression: This student needs to be heard and can be confrontational. They desire to assert themselves and to receive a response to their actions or opinions. While aggression usually has a negative connotation, this need can be positive as in a social activist, a team captain, a student leader.  This sounds negative, but don’t be fooled. People with strong positive aggression are good competitors, as well as passionate fighters for justice. They want their views to be heard and respected.

  • Power: This need, too, is often seen as a negative characteristic, but can be positive in the case of a student who desires more responsibility and authority to make a positive contribution. This student has a strong need for control, be it from feelings of confidence and superiority or from a feeling of inferiority and inability to affect her world.  Again, beware bad connotations. As a motivating force, “power” is a drive for influence, responsibility, and authority. It’s an especially natural and important part of adolescence…when it’s managed right.

  • Recognition: This is perhaps the most extrinsic of the eight forces. These students are goal driven and desire to be seen and heard by others. They want their achievements to be praised and they find their self-worth in the opinions of others. They are attention seeking and are motivated by recognition from others.  Many people adore being seen and appreciated for their gifts and accomplishments and will respond to public encouragement.

  • Affiliation: Connection and a strong need for belonging characterize this motivational force. These students find their identity from connections and relationships formed in the classroom, and a desire for approval.  These folks adore feeling connected to institutions and groups bigger than themselves. Lavoie himself, for example, owns a world-class collection of sport team tees and hats and loves wearing them at any opportunity. He is deeply motivated by affiliation.

As Home Mentors and teachers, we need to understand each of our children as unique individuals so to be able to evaluate our their motivational needs.

The 6 "P"s of Motivation

These motivational forces, or needs, can be met by 6 basic types of motivation strategies. Like the characteristics above, each of these techniques will have some success with all students, but they need to be tailored to individual students based on their motivational needs. For example, you may give out prizes at the end of the week for good behavior, but this is unlikely to motivate a student with more intrinsic motivational needs. They can be thought of like six different tools which the home mentor can use to achieve and drive motivation.

  • Projects motivate the autonomous or inquisitive child.  Projects are a great way to enhance a student's motivation and to provide students who are motivated by intrinsic factors with a new challenge to solve.

  • People motivate the gregarious or affiliation-driven child. For example, a sports team coach or a band director might have a close relationship with students in which the respect and approval of the coach/director is a motivating factor to the student who channels this motivation into practicing more and working harder to master their sport or instrument.

  • Praise motivates the status-driven or recognition-driven or affiliation-driven child. Praise should target the effort, not intelligence. Give encouragement.

  • Prizes motivate the status-driven or recognition-driven or affiliation-driven or power-driven child. Use intermittent unpublished award approach. Can provide an audience for their work. Divide projects into smaller parts then recognize reward on each step instead of rewarding the finalized project.

  • Prestige motivates the autonomous or status-driven or aggressive or power-driven child. Awards, certificates or anything that can be put on the refrigerator.

  • Power motivates the power-driven or autonomous or aggressive child. The most misunderstood child. They just want some power of their own. To defuse the power struggle offer choices, give responsibility and be ok with not always winning. Be direct with commands and statements.

Perhaps the most important theory of motivation is that the most important way to motivate students in their environment is: Motivate yourself! As employees in the workplace, players on a team, or people in a church, students are unlikely to be motivated if the modeling is not there.

Looking for Clues

Directions: Ask your child how they would respond to these questions. Circle 2 answers for each question. Read all the answers carefully and select the two answers you like best.

If you really did well on your science project, what would you prefer the teacher to do?

  1. Let you present the project to the others and explain what it was about.

  2. Put the project on display where others can see it.

  3. Give you a small prize.

  4. Write a note to your parents to tell them what a good job you did.

When you get a good grade on a paper, what do you do?

  1. Show it to your friends.

  2. Hang it on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board at home.

  3. Ask your parents for a treat as a reward for your good work.

  4. Call your relatives and share your success with them.

Make considerations of how your student is wired for motivation.  Each child is different and each individual may respond differently given unique circumstances and stressors.  Be persistent and continue the search for what drives your students. There is always a way!


Keep an eye out for our next RVA Mentor Series!

We know that being a home mentor can be both rewarding and challenging. Our home mentor series will give you the opportunity to learn some educational strategies to overcome life's challenges alongside your peers. Every session will include a topic presented by a leader in their subject followed by a round table discussion with your peers.