Motivating Reluctant Learners.

Reluctant learners need to be both challenged and supported if they are to develop the self-efficacy they need to take risks and succeed.

They avoid challenges, don’t complete tasks, and are satisfied to “just get by.” They are reluctant learners, who often have the potential to excel but don’t seem to care about achieving in school. Identifying the reasons behind these students’ reluctance to learn is integral to engaging their interest and helping them to succeed

Many reluctant students have received the message over time that they are poor students. As a result, they feel frustrated, inadequate, confused, or even ashamed. As they continue to receive negative feedback from teachers and parents, they have even less motivation to excel and become even more disengaged from academic tasks. This situation is a recipe for failure.


Students’ beliefs about their capability to accomplish meaningful tasks— known as self-efficacy—directly affect their motivation to learn. Those with high self-efficacy willingly approach learning, expend effort, persist in the face of challenges, and use strategies
effectively, while those with low self efficacy more typically avoid challenges, expend little effort, and give up, other beliefs that harm or hinder students’ self-efficacy include:

Lack of relevance. They may believe schoolwork is unimportant and does not relate to their life or interests.
Fear of failure. They may feel it is safer not to try than to try and risk failure or embarrassment.
Peer concern. They may opt to appear “cool” to their peers by not trying to learn.
Learning problems. They may find it difficult to keep pace with peers and simply give up in frustration.
Lack of challenge. Their apathy toward schoolwork may stem from assignments that are below their ability.
Desire for attention. They may be trying to gain the teacher’s attention and support by appearing helpless.
Emotional distress. Their lack of interest in schoolwork or ability to focus may actually be an indication of anxiety, distress, or depression.
Expression of anger. They may perform poorly in school as an act of rebellion against parental pressure to excel.

Many reluctant learners do not know how to study effectively, and little classroom time is spent helping them develop such skills. Along with teaching key
strategies such as time management and how to summarize reading material, teachers should help students focus on these skills by asking questions such as “What strategies did you use?” and “How much time did you spend working on this problem?”.

Encourage Reluctant Learners
Small things can make a big difference and classrooms can become places where
reluctant learners feel safe and are encouraged to take risks. For example,
teachers can:
■ Congratulate students regularly during each class on something they have
achieved;
■ Respond non-evaluatively by offering comments such as “That’s an interesting
way of looking at it”; or
■ Regularly acknowledge students for demonstrating improved effort or performance.


The reasons why a student is a reluctant learner are often complex, and educators need to consider not only the student in isolation but also the interaction between the student and
the school/classroom environment.

Reluctant learners need to be both challenged and supported. They need to be actively engaged by instructional approaches designed to maximize the possibilities for engagement. Finally, they need to feel safe enough to take the risks of participation instead of retreating from them. Obviously, in large classes and schools, this is extremely challenging, we have lost so many small primary schools where the teacher and the head teacher knew the family and the child personally. It is yet another challenge of the globalised economy that we all now live in. If the support can not be achieved in school then look at companies that can support with afterschool buddies that will engage, motivate and interact with your child to help build their self-efficacy and motivation.

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