Motivation Type? By Julie Shullo

What gets your student motivated? Motivation to begin an activity or assignment that you’re not interested in can be difficult. Parents often feel that their student just doesn’t care about her grades or only seems to be motivated by earning money or a game. Motivation is unique to each person, and a strategy that works to motivate one may not work for another. In her article, “6 Types of Motivation Explained,” Royal Scuderi discusses motivation. While her article focuses on adults, I have observed similar patterns of motivation in the students that I work with. Here’s what it might look like for your student:


A student motivated by incentives likes to receive positive rewards for his work. Much like a sales person is motivated by bonuses, the idea of earning something motivates this type of student. Incentives may be stickers, prizes, earned screen time, allowances, etc.

Ask yourself: When my child is offered a reward to complete his chores, is he more likely to complete them with minimal prompting? When my teen has the opportunity to earn money for good grades, does her work ethic change?


A student motivated by fear is concerned with doing poorly, getting in trouble, upsetting group members, losing game time, etc. This fear of potential negative consequences is what motivates her to get things done.

Ask yourself: Does my student’s behavior change more when she’s worried about getting into trouble rather than from earning an incentive? Is he more likely to take action when he’s afraid of losing game time if he doesn’t?


These are students that are motivated by grades. They want to do well on their tests and assignments because earning good grades is important to them. They may want to learn the information so they can be an expert in an area, skill, or receive recognition for their successes.

Ask yourself: Will your student study at length for a test because he needs to earn an A? Does she strive for recognition at school for her work (i.e. wants to earn the top grades in her class)? Is being praised for her work important to her? Is receiving academic awards important for him? Does your student avoid new or challenging activities because she’s not as good at them?


Students motivated by growth always want to be improving. These are students intrinsically motivated. They may care about grades, but not because they need high scores. Instead they care about their grades because they want to learn the information and do well.

Ask yourself: Does your child study extra hard in a subject that’s challenging for her because she wants to understand it? Does your teen ask for help from a tutor because he’s not clear on the new concept he’s learning in physics? Does your student enjoy learning new skills or trying new activities even though he may not be good at them initially?


Students motived by power like to be in control. These are students that like to be leaders in the classroom and during group work. The idea of working towards something that will give them a leadership role motivates them to accomplish tasks.

Ask yourself: Does your child love working in a group because he enjoys designating the roles and guiding the group discussions? Does she thrive in situations where she gets to make decisions? Is he bossy or strong-willed?


These students want to fit-in with their peers and find value in social acceptance. They especially enjoy group work and opportunities to work with others on assignments.

Ask yourself: Is your child more excited about activities that involve a partner or group? Does she enjoy opportunities to work with her peers? Does she like to play team sports? Does she put forth more effort or seem to enjoy assignments that are with a partner?

Do any of these seem like your student? Your student could be motivated in more than one way. Identifying your student’s motivational type (or types) might be helpful in designing a system or developing a plan to help him/her tackle assignments, projects, and/or household chores.


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