Teacher Characteristics and Habits That Motivate Students

Research-Based Questions to Guide Best Teaching

Teacher Characteristics and Habits that Motivate Students

In our post, “What Motivates Gifted Students? Teachers Do,” we discussed the work of Del Siegle et al., who asked Honors students to describe what motivates them to achieve in high school. The authors found that teachers were the main motivating factor for students: “While students discussed home and peers to some extent, the majority of their comments focused on the school and more specifically on the teacher. Teachers were the determining factor in whether the students did their best work or just enough to get the grade they wanted” (44).

In the article, students described in detail teachers’ characteristics and behaviors that motivated them to do well. The following questions are based on those student descriptions of inspiring teachers. 

Questions to Guide Educators’ Professional Development

  1. Students were inspired to achieve when teachers built positive relationships with their students (41). How do teachers in your district/school build positive and personal relationships with their students? What are some effective strategies to share?
  2. According to Siegle et al., students were inspired by teachers who had in-depth content knowledge (41). Can teachers in your district/school identify subject areas where they have in-depth (strong) content knowledge? Can teachers in your district/school identify content areas where they could further develop their own understanding? I.e., what are weak-points for teachers’ own understanding of content?
  3. How can teachers make and meet personal goals to deepen their own understanding of content? 
  4. Students were motivated when teachers made interdisciplinary connections (41). In what ways can teachers in your district/school regularly make interdisciplinary connections in their courses?
  5. Students performed better in courses that moved at a faster pace (42). How can teachers assess their pacing to ensure that they are moving at a relatively quick pace, but not leaving students behind? 
  6. Students were inspired when teachers taught with passion and enthusiasm (45). How can the teachers in your district/school demonstrate their passion for teaching? How can they regularly demonstrate enthusiasm for teaching and for their subject?


“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.” – Gordon Parks

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