Instructor advice on motivating students

Having trouble motivating your students to stay active and engaged in class? We understand that some days, it can be a struggle. Current and former instructors here at Hawkes Learning have provided advice on how to keep students motivated. Check it out below, then let us know what advice YOU have!


  • Consider announcing a 3-point bonus question before your first test, and make it a scavenger hunt. Ask for three things (one point each): 1. What is written on your office door? (This encourages students to find your office.) 2. What is one name of a tutor in the tutoring lab? (This encourages them to find the tutoring lab.) 3. What are the hours for the tutoring lab? (This knowledge helps them if they need to schedule an appointment.)
  • Take attendance. Even if attendance isn’t part of the grade, it shows students that you’re aware whether or not they come to class and participate.
  • Get students to speak. A few will always take the lead and constantly ask questions, while some will never open their mouths. Directly ask those students a question. Hearing their voice and knowing it’s being heard has a positive effect and can lead them to speak up without being prompted later on.


  • Post discussions and message boards. Since you can’t talk face-to-face, the next best thing is to utilize these communications threads.
  • Remind students that they never stop learning because technology changes so often. Use the online environment to your advantage by showing students new communications tools and apps that they can adapt to and learn from.
  • Hold virtual office hours for students who have questions or need a little extra help.


  • Have a large class? Consider the “shared birthday” problem. A class of 30 students has over a 70% chance of having at least one shared birthday among them. A class of 40 students has almost 90%. If you happen to have one or more shared birthdays in the class, they never forget it and it gets them interested from the start.
  • Collect noninvasive data from your class to use throughout the semester. Asking at the beginning of the term for information like students’ majors, favorite sport, and number of siblings gives you data to incorporate in your lessons that will keep students interested.
  • Math courses have historically had a stigma for math anxiety for some students. Be reassuring and encouraging to your students, and provide opportunities for success that will help supply confidence and a positive momentum through the course.


  • Give students options! Anytime students can decide on an element of their learning, they get more invested in the outcome. Let them choose a project partner, reading selection, or project option.
  • Allow students to revise and resubmit assignments based on your feedback to improve their grades and strengthen their learning.
  • Put students in the role of instructor. Assign them a reading passage that they are responsible for teaching to part or all of the class. Teaching is the best way to learn a new concept!

Have more tips? We’d love to hear them! Comment below with your tried and true tips on keeping students motivated and engaged.

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