'Motivation quote' photo (c) 2010, photosteve101 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

(NOTE: You might also be interested in my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges.)

And check out its sequel, Self-Driven Learning.

Check out all excerpts from my third book on student motivation here.

Q & A Collections: Student Motivation brings all my Ed Week posts on student motivation together in one place.

You might also be interested in The Best Ideas For Helping Students Connect Lessons To Their Interests & The World.

Eight Ways To Help English Language Learners Feel Motivated To Read & Write is the headline of one of my posts for The British Council.

I’ve put the word “motivating” in quotation marks for this post because I hate the word. Here’s how I put it in a previous post:

Anytime I hear or read about “motivating students,” I cringe a bit.

An organizing truism (one that I learned during my twenty-year community organizing career) is that you might be able to bribe, cajole, badger, or threaten somebody to do something over the short-term (I’ve certainly done my of that, and I’ve written about the negative results). But I don’t think you can really “motivate” anybody to do anything beyond a very, very, very short timeline, after which the initial enthusiasm quickly dissipates.


However, you can help another person find what will motivate themselves.

The posts in this “The Best…” list more of my thinking around this perspective.

You might also want to check-out articles I’ve written on this topic for other publications (some have similar titles, but different content):

The Washington Post: Bribing students: Another ‘magical solution’ that doesn’t work.

The New York Times: Helping Students Motivate Themselves

Education Week: Helping Students Motivate Themselves

Education Week: Several Ways To ‘Motivate’ the Unmotivated To Learn

Washington Post: Helping students motivate themselves

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Showing Students Why They Should Continue Their Academic Career and My Best Posts On Students Setting Goals.

In addition, check-out The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning.

The Best Ideas For Helping Students Connect Lessons To Their Interests & The World

Here are My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students:

I’ve Never “Motivated” A Student

The Problem With “Bribing Students”

A Few Reflections On Daniel Pink’s New Book, “Drive”

My Thoughts On A Very Intriguing Video On Motivation & Incentives

The Difference Between Praise & Acknowledgment

How Do You Think Working Hard & Learning Everything You Can In This Class Might Help You Now & In The Future?

“Now I Know My Brain Is Growing When I Read Every Night”

On Rewards & Classroom Management

“What Drives Motivation in the Modern Workplace?”

Now This Is The Way To Make Academic Talks Accessible — Great Examples Of Graphic Note-Taking (this post contains a link to a graphic representation of Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive.”)

Cooperative Learning

Updates On Some Classroom Lessons & Research I’ve Been Doing

“Will Sleeping More Make Me Smarter?” — A Lesson I’m Trying This Week

“Mental Imagery” & Success

“Motivating Students Via Mental Time Travel”

Very Important Study On Learning & The Brain

Another Important Study On Motivation

Exceptional Interview With Daniel Pink

Hilarious Video Clip On Motivation, Alfie Kohn, & “The Office”

Some Wisdom From “This American Life”

More Evidence That Bribes Don’t Work For Actions That Require Higher Order Thinking Skills

Good Short Interview With Daniel Pink

Very Useful Articles On Motivation

“Relevance” & Student Learning

What Does Learning From Mistakes Do To Your Brain?

“Carrots and sticks: Procrastination fix?”

The Best Short Summary I’ve Seen Of Daniel Pink’s Book, “Drive”

“You Gotta’ Practice”

Motivation & Rewards

How Incentives Can Be Productive (But Not In The Way You Might Think)

The Best Articles On The New Study Showing That Intelligence Is Not “Fixed.”

How To Take Better Advantage Of Brain Plasticity

Daniel Pink On Grades, Autonomy & Inquiry

“How Does Our Brain Learn New Information?”

“When Students Focus On Tests, They Are Not Taking The Time To Think About Why They Are Learning”

“Words Speak Louder Than Money”

Highlights Of Twitter Chat With Daniel Pink

Does being reminded of money make you an uncooperative jerk or an independent thinker? is a blog post by Daniel Pink on some a new study. Even though it’s not my post, I’m adding it here because it’s probably the best place for it.

Is This The Strategy We Really Want To Use To Change Student Behavior?

Important Posts On Motivation

What Do New Studies Say Happens If You Are Treated Unfairly And/Or Feel Controlled?

“Does money really motivate people?”

Every Day I Discover How Little I Know — Here’s Another Example

A Great Example Demonstrating The Pitfalls Of Extrinsic Rewards

CEOs and the Candle Problem is a new article describing an old experiment about motivation and the ineffectiveness of incentives.

“You Cannot Make A Plant Grow — You Can Provide The Conditions For Growth”

Even More Evidence That “outside incentives can undermine the intrinsic motivations”

Classroom Leadership: Rewards Are Like Crack is by John T. Spencer.

“First Year Highlights: Student Motivation”

Starting the Conversation on Rethinking Awards Ceremonies is by Chris Wejr.

A Couple Of Posts On Motivation

Can’t Economists Stay Away From Schools? Don’t They Have Enough Other Things To Do?

Part Two Of “Can’t Economists Stay Away From Schools?” — My Worst Fears Realized

“Michael Sandel: Should we pay children to read?”

Toilet-Training, Incentives & Merit Pay

I’ve previously posted about The Progress Principle, a book by Professor Teresa Amabile. Here’s a short video interview with her:


Series Of Good Dan Pink Videos To Use With Students

“Reward Undermining”

Here’s What I Do During My Favorite Time Of The School Week

Is This The Most Important Research Study Of 2012? Maybe

Short, Sweet & Effective Advice On Helping Students Motivate Themselves

Surprise, Surprise: Study Finds That Relationships Promote Perseverance & Cash Bonuses Do Not

“Teachers As ‘Persuaders’: An Interview With Daniel Pink”

Links To The Entire Six Week Twitter Chat On Helping Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation

Media Coverage Of Mayo Clinic’s Research On Paying People To Lose Weight — Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees

How Did I Not Know About This National Academy Of Sciences Report On Student Motivation?

Need More Evidence About The Dangers Of Extrinsic Rewards? Here It Is From The Harvard Business Review

Infographic: “How to Motivate Employees” (& Maybe It Says Something About The Classroom, Too)

The More We Try To Control, The Less Chance Of Getting Our Preferred Outcomes

Quote Of The Day: Stop Telling Your Employees (& Students) What To Do

Quote Of The Day: “No One Likes To Be Changed”

This video demonstrates both the disadvantages of extrinsic motivation and the importance of helping our students develop creativity:

The Unengageables is a must-read post by Dan Meyer. It’s specifically talking about math, but much of what he says (and links to) related to motivation issues across all classes.

How Incentives Demoralize Us is by Barry Schwartz.

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently is by Heidi Grant Halvorson and appeared in the Harvard Business Review. What makes it particularly useful in class is an online assessment people can take on it — The 9 Things Diagnostic.

Student Motivations and Attitudes: The Role of the Affective Domain in Geoscience Learning is the very long title of a very useful page on motivation research.

Quote Of The Day: “Why Paying Kids to Do Homework Can Backfire”

14 Videos for Starting Dialogue on Rethinking Rewards, Awards is a must-see post from Chri Wejr.

Sandy Millin has a good post titled Motivation Stations (including student hand-outs) that is specifically geared to motivation for learning a second language.

When 3+1 is more than 4 is Harvard report on a new study that reinforces previous research findings that rewards only “work” if they are unexpected gifts.

Finding Drive is an article in Language Magazine about motivation in learning a second (or third) language.

Start Off The New Year With This Excellent Classroom Advice

Motivation Revisited is by David Deubelbeiss.

What does neuroscience research say about motivation and the brain? is by Judy Willis.

PISA 2012 Results in Focus: What 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know includes some very useful information, including this:

How to Harness Your Brain’s Dopamine Supply and Increase Motivation is from LifeHacker.

The Power Of Interest is by Annie Murphy Paul.

How to “Bake” Intrinsic Motivation: A Holiday Recipe for Your Classroom or School is from Sam Chaltain and Kim Farris-Berg.

Q-and-A with author Dan Pink: Using motivational questioning and more in the classroom is at Smart Blog on Education.

Three Things That Actually Motivate Employees is from the Harvard Business Review.

If You Weren’t Able To Attend Our Workshop On “Developing A Self-Motivated Student Culture,” These Tweets Have It Covered

When Classroom Culture Conflicts With EdTech appeared in Larry Cuban’s blog. I particularly like the first half, which provides an insightful critique of the tech tool, ClassDojo.

Another Study Demonstrates The Ineffectiveness Of Extrinsic Motivation, But Also Something More….

Language learning: what motivates us? is a very interesting article in The Guardian.

“Knowledge Motivates Preschoolers More Than Stickers, Study Says”

Why Incentives Don’t Actually Motivate People To Do Better Work is from Business Insider.

How To Motivate People – 4 Steps Backed By Science is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

My New British Council Post: “Creating The Conditions For Self-Motivated Students”

Classes of Donkeys is by David Truss, and offers some thoughtful commentary on the popular Class Dojo behavior management tech tool.

On Using And Not Using ClassDojo*: Ideological Differences? is by Larry Cuban. Motivating is from ELT Reflections, and is also on Class Dojo.

Another Shocker – NOT! Students Respond Better To Support Than Threats

New RSA Animated Video Of Daniel Pink Talk

OECD has published a short post with links titled Why policy makers should care about motivating students. I’ve got a lot of issues with the PISA test (see The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results). However, the report the post links to contains a lot of important information on motivation.

Student Motivation: Age-Old Problem Gets New Attention is a new report from Education Week, which is very good but would be better if they included links to the studies that are cited. It also includes a survey of Ed Week readers on motivation questions that, because the sample isn’t scientifically identified, is of somewhat limited use.

Q & A Collections: Student Motivation is a post at Education Week Teacher that brings together all my posts — from the last three years — on that topic in one place.

Wanting it enough: why motivation is the key to language learning is from The Guardian.

Quote Of The Day: “The Secret of Effective Motivation”

“The Leftovers” Shared A Key To Motivation & Perseverance In The First 30 Seconds Of Last Night’s Episode

Gates’ Excuse for Poor Results of Educational Technology: “Unmotivated Students” and A Question for Bill Gates: How Can We Motivate Students When Their Futures Are Bleak? are both by Anthony Cody at Ed Week.

Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation and Growth Mindset in Writing is from Edutopia.

ASCD’s Ed Leadership Is Online – Here Are My Recommendations

How a Bigger Purpose Can Motivate Students to Learn is from MindShift.

What A Surprise – NOT! British Study Finds That Cash Rewards Don’t Motivate Students

One Of The More Depressing Passages You’ll Read This Week

Two Important Posts On ClassDojo

Getting The Least Motivated Students More Motivated By Working With The Most Motivated

Important New Study: No Child Left Behind Hurts Long-Term Student Success

I Think This Is An Excellent Visual About Student Choice

Here’s A New Strategy I’m Trying To Help Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation

Second Quote Of The Day: Competition vs. Collaboration

Study Finds That Rewards For School Attendance Make Things Worse

Q & A Collections: Student Motivation is the title of one of my posts at Education Week Teacher. It brings together all my posts there from the past four years that relate to student motivation.

Motivation and instruction is from Pragmatic Education.

Quote Of The Day: What Helps & Hurts Motivation?

Study Finds That Empathetic Teachers Enhance Student Motivation – Is Anyone Surprised?

The Importance Of Having Many Tools: “If Your Only Tool Is A Hammer, Then Everything Looks Like A Nail”

Studies Find No Surprise: Kindness Matters

Very Interesting Interview With Motivation Researcher

Study: Extrinsic Rewards Reduces Long-Term Learning Of New Languages & Other Knowledge

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students is from Cult of Pedagogy.

“Ofrecer autonomía es clave para desarrollar la motivación”

Prizes as Curriculum: How my school gets students to “behave” is from Rethinking Schools.

Three Useful Videos On Self-Motivation

The Incentive Follies

Quote Of The Day: The Role Of Motivation In Language-Learning

Beliefs Come First: Untangling The Knot of Student Motivation is by Daniel Greene.

Avoid Burnout by Asking This Question is from The Harvard Business Review.

Here’s a good summery of research on student motivation from Digital Promise.

Q & A Collections: Student Motivation & Social Emotional Learning is the headline of one of my Education Week Teacher columns.It brings together all my posts on student motivation and Social Emotional Learning from the past five years – in one place!

The Right Way to Bribe Your Kids to Read is a very good column from the NY Times, and it means “bribery” in a different way than you might think.

Motivation matters: New meta-analysis estimates the average effect of motivation interventions is from The Mind Scholars Network.

15 Actionable Strategies for Increasing Student Motivation and Engagement is from Fusion Yearbooks.

What gets students motivated to work harder? Not money is from The Conversation.

Daniel Pink on Incentives and the Two Types of Motivation is from Farnam Street blog. There’s nothing new in the piece, but it does give a nice summary of the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

The Importance Of Teacher & Student Autonomy

Researchers Find – Once Again – That Extrinsic Motivation Doesn’t Work

‘No More Reading For Junk’: an Interview With Barbara Marinak & Linda Gambrell is the headline of one of mymy latest Education Week Teacher columns. In it, Barbara Marinak and Linda Gambrell answer a few questions about their book, “No More Reading For Junk: Best Practices For Motivating Readers.”

Paying do-gooders makes them less persuasive is the headline of an article about yet another study finding that extrinsic motivation doesn’t work.

Column: Hey teachers, please stop using behavior charts. Here’s why is from the PBS News Hour.

The Bonus Effect is from Alfie Kohn.

Setting Higher Expectations: Motivating Middle Graders to Succeed is from AMLE.

3 Proven Rituals That Will Make You Motivated is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Video: “How the ‘IKEA effect’ can motivate people to work [& learn] harder”

Four ways to better motivate your employees, from one of the world’s most prominent behavioral economists is from Quartz.

The Problem with Rewarding Individual Performers is from The Harvard Business Review.

All Teachers Could Benefit From Watching New PBS NewsHour Segment On Motivation

3 science-backed rituals that will boost your motivation is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

The Truth About Motivation Most Do Not Believe is from Psy Blog.

Two studies have come out recently reinforcing what we already know about the negative effects rewards have on intrinsic motivation. Unfortunately, both are behind paywalls.

Here’s A Great Motivating Question For Students To Consider…

The Difference between a Motivation Problem and a Discipline Problem is from Mindsteps.

Learning As An Act Of Rebellion

New Study Finds That Threats & Using Guilt Tend Not To Produce Student Engagement – Duh!

Big Meta-Analysis Says Four Teaching Strategies Are Most Effective For Low-Income Students

Intriguing Research On How To Increase Intrinsic Motivation

Author Interview: ‘Learn Better’ is the headline of one of my Education Week Teacher columns.

Harvard Business Review Lays-Out A Good Three-Step Process To Introduce A Lesson

Using The “Curiosity Gap” Enhance Student Motivation

What is self-efficacy and how can we help our students to get more of it? is by Shaun Allison.

Understanding these three principles will help you develop true intrinsic motivation is from Quartz and is an interview with pioneer researchers in the field.

This video is from the Harvard Business Review (it’s about this article

New Study Finds Students Less Motivated In School The More They Think Wealth & Income Inequality Is Stacked Against Them

Extrinsic Motivation Strikes Out Again

How a School Ditched Awards and Assemblies to Refocus on Kids and Learning is from MindShift.

How Ending Behavior Rewards Helped One School Focus on Student Motivation and Character is from MindShift.

New Short Video: Daniel Pink On Motivation & Schools

Yet Another Study Documents The Long-Term Harm Of Short-Term Extrinsic Motivation

New Study Suggests That Motivation & Growth Mindset Are Most Important Factors For Student Success

Here’s another example of the dangers of extrinsic rewards: Financial awards can actually discourage whistleblowers from reporting fraud, study says.

Wisdom From Nobel-Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman On Creating Change

Quote Of The Day: “Carrots & Sticks Will Not Work…”

Highly motivated kids have a greater advantage in life than kids with a high IQ is from Quartz.

On Motivation is by Robert Slavin.

An Important Piece of the Student Motivation Puzzle is a really good piece from Future Ed.

Author Interview: ‘Motivated – Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join In’ is the headline of one of my Education Week Teacher columns. In it, Ilana Horn, author of “Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want To Join In,” agreed to answer a few questions about her book.

How Small Wins Unleash Creativity is an older summary (but a good one) of The Progress Principle.

‘Liking’ vs ‘wanting’. A neuroscientific view on classroom motivation is from Hobbolog.

New Study Documents The Benefits To School That Are Obvious To Us, But Maybe Not So Obvious To Our Students

An Important Piece of the Student Motivation Puzzle appeared in Future Ed.

Good Student Motivation Advice From Dan Ariely

Using Learning and Motivation Theories to Coherently Link Formative Assessment, Grading Practices, and Large‐Scale Assessment is a new research paper that looks intriguing, but is behind a paywall.

Treasure Chest Of Immediately Applicable Motivation Strategies

How to Motivate (Not Demoralize) a Student with ADHD is from ADDitude.

The 3 Things Employees Really Want: Career, Community, Cause is from The Harvard Business Review.

You can access – for free – a big new review of Self-Determination Theory (the key research behind what encourages intrinsic motivation) written by the originators of the theory.

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG): a study of students’ motivation, achievement, and science identity in low-income middle schools is a new study. Yup, goes to the same list.

Quote of the Day: Intrinsic Motivation Is Powerful

What strategy is most useful in promoting self-efficacy in educators and in learners? is from Digital Promise.

The Importance Of Respect In The Classroom

Getting Doctors to Make Better Decisions Will Take More than Money and Nudges is from Harvard Business Review and has lots of connections to education.

“That Was Amazing. Tell Me How You Did It” – The Importance Of Stories

Interesting Study On Percentage Of Time Students Are “Off-Task”

A Simple Plan for Significantly Increasing Student Motivation to Write is from Matthew Johnson.

New evidence on fostering motivation is from Greg Ashman.



How to motivate older kids without using rewards, punishment or fear. (No, really.) is from The Washington Post.


Psychologists have surprising advice for people who feel unmotivated is from Quartz.



Science Confirms It: People Are Not Pets is by Alfie Kohn and is from The NY Times. It includes links to some good research but, as much as I admire much of Kohn’s past work, I think he overstates his case a bit against extrinsic motivation. And, bear in mind, I’m saying this and I have written three books on the value of helping students develop intrinsic motivation.


How Well Do Rewards and Incentives Work to Motivate You? is from The NY Times Learning Network, and it has nearly 150 student responses.




What Motivates Effort? Evidence and Expert Forecasts is a new study.

Research Highlights The Importance Of Creating “Fresh Starts” For Our Students

New – To Me, At Least – Research On Intrinsic Motivation

4 Reasons Good Employees Lose Their Motivation is from Harvard Business Review.

Brain Science Backs Up Role of ‘Mindset’ in Motivating Students for Math is from Ed Week.

How to unlock students’ internal drive for learning is from The Hechinger Report.

Finding the Formula: Understanding How Schools Can Improve Student Motivation is from America Achieves.

Is PBIS Creating Extrinsically-Driven Students? is an interesting piece I learned about through NiaBTeaching.

Training new teachers to understand motivation in the classroom: How teacher preparation programs are educating teachers on the pedagogical implications of the social psychology of motivation is from The Mindset Scholars Network.

Rewarding students: should we? If so, how? is from Harry Fletcher-Wood.

Want Teachers to Motivate Their Students? Teach Them How to Do It is from Ed Week.

How to Motivate Kids to Practice Hard Things is a really good piece from Greater Good Magazine. I like it a lot.

Here’s an infographic on motivation and grading.


Extrinsic Motivation: It Might Be Even Worse Than You Thought is from Edutopia.


Praise, Don’t Tease, And Other Tips To Help Kids With Their Weight is from NPR. The advice it offers is applicable to other issues besides weight.

Researchers can detect when students aren’t trying on computerized tests is from The Hechinger Report.

Teachers’ belief that math requires innate ability predicts lower intrinsic motivation among low-achieving students is a new study.

Seven Strategies to Keep Students Motivated All Year Long is from MindShift.



Why employee rewards are frequently ineffective and potentially counterproductive is from Quartz.


Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On is by Judy Willis.

Tapping the Power of Intrinsic Motivation is from Harvard’s Usable Knowledge.

Bestselling Author Daniel Pink on What Really Motivates Us To Change is a good interview.

Is a Scholarship Promise Enough to Keep Students on a Path to College? is from Ed Week and, again, shows that just offering “carrots” is not enough.

The benefits of using a motivational framework for culturally responsive ESL teaching is from MultiBriefs.

5 ways to deal with that pesky lack of motivation is from Fast Company.

9 Strategies for Motivating Students in Mathematics is from Edutopia.

Motivating distant learners: schools under coronavirus is by Harry Fletcher-Wood and is very good.

How to Turn on the Part of Your Brain That Controls Motivation is from MindShift.

6 ways to build motivation to do your schoolwork now that you’re forced to learn online at home is from The Conversation.

The Problem with Telling Children They’re Better Than Others is from Scientific American.


The Sciences of Teaching is by Carol Ann Tomlinson and David A. Sousa.

A cross-classified path analysis of the self-determination theory model on the situational, individual and classroom levels in college education is a new study.


Reframing Achievement Setbacks: A Motivation Intervention to Improve 8-Year Graduation Rates for Students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Fields is a new study.

We Work Harder When We Know Someone’s Watching is from The Harvard Business Review.

Fostering Autonomous Motivation in EFL Classroom: A Self-determination Theory, Perspective

Motivation and Creativity for the Implementation of A New English Language Strategy

These next documents are from the Mindset Scholars Network:

Communicating about Student Motivation: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Recommendations

The Scientific Story of Student Motivation for Communicators

Leveraging mindset science to design educational environments that nurture people’s natural drive to learn

Communicating about Student Motivation: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Recommendations

The relation between student motivation and reading performance is from Best Evidence In Brief.

Feedback is welcome.

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You might also want to explore the 450 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.