IntroductionMotivation is an extremely important intrinsic force that allows people to work towards specific goals, improve their performance and satisfy their needs (Burns, 2008, p.120). Its impact on human behavior is so significant that scientists have recently associated a variety of detrimental symptoms such as debilitating laziness and apathy with a disorder called “motivational deficiency disorder” (Moynihan, 2006). According to the Australian scientists who first discovered this unusual disease, in extreme cases motivational deficiency may reduce one’s ability to breathe properly or even result in death (Moynihan, 2006). While this proposal does not revolve around motivational deficiency, it addresses unmotivated students aged between ten and fourteen whose lack of motivation may either stem from this particular disorder or lead to it if left untreated. Academic amotivation is a serious issue that is likely to affect students’ academic achievements negatively.

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As Legault, Pelletier & Green-Demers (2006) pointed out, academic amotivation is one of the most severe problems plaguing today’s adolescents. According to their findings, motivation functions as a reliable predictor of students’ academic success or failure, and social support – from family members, educators and friends – plays a crucial role in boosting students’ self-esteem and motivation towards academic disciplines (Legault et al., 2006, pp.579-580). The reason why the author has decided to design an intervention program for students aged between ten and fourteen is because it is assumed that people within this age range are mature enough to accept the idea of working on themselves in order to improve their academic performance. Moreover, previous research has clearly demonstrated that one of the techniques recommended in this paper – i.e. positive reinforcement – is particularly useful when attempting to improve adolescents’ functioning (Capuzzi & Golden, 2013, pp.140-143; Hooper et al., 2012, pp.388-340). Specifically, the intervention will use a combination of positive reinforcement and self-praise in order to address students’ lack of motivation. For each student who will take part in the intervention program, I will meet at least one parent or legal guardian so as to develop effective positive reinforcers on the basis of the student’s likes, interests and needs. At this point, I will arrange a private session with each participating student and ask strategic questions about their academic performance and the reasons behind their lack of motivation. On the basis of their answers, I will develop a number of phrases and instruct each student to repeat them whenever they do not feel motivated to study.

The ideal sample will consist of twenty students from local institutions, whose parents and / or educators believe that their poor academic performance derives from a lack of motivation. Even though a larger sample would certainly enable me to collect more data so as to draw more reliable findings, the particular techniques selected for this intervention require in-depth dialogues, which would produce a significant amount of unstructured data. Therefore, limited the intervention to twenty participants is the best way to obtain sufficient information without having to invest a significant amount of time and resources.

The intervention will consist of two stages. During the first stage, I will meet each student’s parents or legal guardian/s, inquiring about their children’s attitudes towards school, academic achievements, interests and goals. I will use the information collected during this phase to develop a number of positive reinforcers, whether tangible or intangible, aimed at motivating each student. I will need their parents and legal guardians’ cooperation in order to ensure that they can easily integrate my chosen reinforcers – for example, if a student loves videogames, I may suggest getting them videogames when they manage to study for a certain number of hours in a row. During the second stage, I will meet each student and collect data about the factors that motivate them, how they perceive academic activities and why they find it difficult to obtain better grades. I will use these data to formulate a number of phrases which students will use to praise themselves whenever they manage to study for a certain number of hours in a row.

I will measure the intervention’s success by monitoring each participant’s grades for a period of six months. At the end of the intervention, I will assess the impact of the intervention on students’ academic performance.

Research on positive reinforcement and self-praise
Can positive reinforcement and self-praise improve students’ motivation?
Usefulness of the intervention
Stages of the intervention
Expected outcomes
Data analysis
Intervention procedure
Assessment methods

  • Burns, R. B. (2008). Essential Psychology. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Capuzzi, D. & Golden, L. (2013). Preventing Adolescent Suicide. Muncie, IN: Routledge.
  • Hooper, C., Thompson, M., Laver-Bradbury, C. & Gale, C. (2012). Child and Adolescent Mental Health: Theory and Practice. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press
  • Legault, L., Pelletier, L. & Green-Demers, I. (2006). Why Do High School Students Lack Motivation in the Classroom? Toward an Understanding of Academic Amotivation and the Role of Social Support. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98 (3): 567–582.
  • Moynihan, R. (2006). Scientists find new disease: motivational deficiency disorder. British Medical Journal, 332(7544): 745.