Supporting Students during the Coronavirus Pandemic: The 3 Keys to unlocking Motivation in any Student

You know you can help your student, if only he would just be motivated!

Here’s our 3 keys to unlocking motivation any student: (Note: this blog is actually a mini-teacher-training – we’d love to hear if it helps you in practice.)

1. Give positive feedback

Positive feedback is encouraging and motivating. It creates good energy and a can-do attitude. Positive feedback should be:

  • authentic – be genuinely pleased for your student as they succeed, but don’t overdo it.
  • accurate – choose the smallest success, and praise it specifically. “Wow! You remembered the apostrophe.”

2. Give SMART goals

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

To put this into context, think about how you would lead that same reluctant student on a long woodland walk.


  • let them hold the map,
  • show them the destination (or let them pick one from a selection),
  • let them know the point of the walk (excercise/ getting back to the car/ finding the picnic spot/ viewing point)
  • let them know what it will be like when you arrive (meet friends/ go swimming)
  • estimate how long the walk will take
  • most importantly – you won’t embark on a walk that they really can’t manage (that’s not ambitious, it’s demoralising).

So plan do-able tasks, meaningful tasks, that lets the student enjoy a feeling of success and achievement.

3. Build a positive relationship

Positive relationships in tutoring boil down to 3 elements — Positivity, Respect and Trust — each of which is built on the one before.


  • Be friendly – friendly means “How was your day?” “How was that movie you went to see after our last session?” or “Are you going away this Summer?” Let your student feel you’re interested in them as a person, and not only as a learner.
  • Give them snippets of your life also, students are usually fascinated to discover tutors are people too. Only share information that relates to them (“I remember that when I learned this in Y7…” or “whenever my kids have this problem i always…”) and of course only in an appropriate way.
  • You do need to get the balance right with friendliness, because you’re not peers, and that’s important. Your student needs you to be an adult, so be warm, but retain a professional boundary.
  • Much of friendliness is simply in your attitude, tone of voice and body-language. At first, keep it bright and breezy. But really, you need to find a tone of voice that is warm but firm. If you need to correct a student, try to do it in a round-about way “Do you want to try that again?” or “Can you think of another way to say that to me?”
  • Be Fun – fun just means making the learning enjoyable.
  • You don’t have to plan elaborate lessons, but it helps to:
    • Plan a game for the last 5 minutes. It will leave the student with a good memory for next time. (Studies show that people tend to rate an experience by how much they enjoy the last few minutes.)
    • Show your own enthusiasm and excitement. Passion is infectious! If you show that you adore Macbeth, or quadratic equations, your student is far more likely to learn to love them too.
    • And don’t forget to be patient. Tutoring takes endless patience. Because you have… to give them… thinking… time. And that’s always longer than is comfortable. And it’s always worth waiting, because sometimes real gems appear, and other times you discover misconceptions that you would never have seen if you’d just interrupted with an answer. Remember that you’re here for the student and bring an extra dose of patience to every session.


  • Show respect – respect is built on positivity. By making lessons fun and by being friendly, you show that you respect your student’s experience of the session. You show yourself to be intelligent, empathetic and able when you create a positive atmosphere.
  • Behave respectably – be punctual, presentable and prepared. That professionalism will establish that you are worthy of respect.
  • Command respect; don’t demand it – if your student isn’t behaving with respect, you will need to adjust your approach. Find a way to get through to them. But don’t stamp your feet and demand respect. (This is much easier said than done, and best to reflect on after the session.)


  • Trust is the biggest gun in a tutor’s arsenal. If you’ve got trust, your student will take risks. And risk-taking is fundamental to learning. Every time they put an answer down on paper, they know: it could be right, it could be wrong. If your student trusts you, they will allow you to challenge them in the secure knowledge that they’ll be fine, even if they fail miserably.
  • Trust is based on having a solid track-record with a student. That track record is based on everything we’ve said above: giving positive feedback, setting SMART goals and building a positive and respectful relationship.

These keys are really each a whole subject in their own right, as I said, it’s really a mini-teacher-training course.

Qualified Tutor is going to be developing courses which explain more on each of these topics and many others, and we’d love to have you register your interest at our website

But, simply put, if you follow the guidance above, your will be able to motivate any student. How could they resist?