How to build motivation to learn?

How to build motivation to learn?

What is the reason for using the term “build” instead of “have”?

In recent times, we have had the opportunity to engage with individuals who have encountered learning difficulties. The reasons behind such challenges can be traced to various factors, such as limited knowledge of effective learning techniques, undefined learning objectives, and studying subjects that we are not passionate about. At Bethink, our experience has demonstrated that these problems can be diverse and often linked to a person’s lifestyle. However, a universal issue that affects many is a lack of motivation to learn.

This article serves as both a guide and a collection of experiences. Our aim is to provide a unique perspective on the concept of motivation in learning. We address this topic because motivation is often misunderstood. Most students see it as a binary concept – you either have it or you don’t. This rigid viewpoint implies that motivation is something that appears out of nowhere, like a rabbit out of a hat. However, at Bethink we know that motivation is not just something that we ‘have’, but something that we build. This perspective allows us to consider how learning habits impact levels of motivation, and how learning activities can either aid or hinder motivation-building efforts.

What are the steps to building motivation for learning?

Plentiful studies on this topic are available on the internet and in academic libraries. At Bethink, we employ a practical model that we wish to share with you. This model benefits not only educators but students as well. It facilitates the identification of poor learning habits and deficiencies in good learning practices, which significantly impact motivation-building efforts before and during learning. Dr. Susan Ambrose, an education and history professor at Northeastern University in the United States, developed this model based on numerous studies. These studies were used to create recommendations for teachers.

The model’s holistic approach makes it applicable to students themselves. It identifies three categories of factors that influence our motivation levels during learning, each containing numerous activities that either promote or hinder the development of high levels of learning motivation. This is important since learning without motivation can be an unpleasant experience.

In the context of building motivation to learn, there are three crucial factors that we need to consider:

  1. The sense of the value of the learning goal. This refers to the student’s understanding of the personal value that achieving specific educational goals has for them. This could be the enhancement of their general sense of competence, gaining practical and applied skills for future life or simply satisfying their intellectual curiosity. The presence or absence of this sense of value significantly affects the level of internal motivation.

  2. The sense of effectiveness in learning. This is the student’s confidence and awareness that they possess a sufficient level of knowledge and skills to implement the study plan, understand new material, and achieve the learning goal. This sense of agency in learning is influenced by many aspects, including our educational habits which we will discuss in detail later in this article.

  3. The impact of the learning environment on our motivation to learn. This encompasses all the factors that directly or indirectly affect us during the learning process. Some of these factors are under our control, while others are not. For instance, whether we study alone or in a group, whether we have a quiet and conducive study environment, whether people around us support or distract us while studying, and whether our teachers are helpful in guiding us through the material. These environmental factors have a significant impact on our motivation to learn, either facilitating or hindering the process of building motivation for intellectual effort.

The presented model postulates that our position in the learning process depends on three key factors: our perception of the value of the learning goal, our level of self-efficacy during learning, and the impact of our environment. Based on these factors, we can be classified into one of eight groups. Please refer to the diagram below and carefully consider your own experience in light of this model. A more detailed description of each group can be found below the diagram.

Motivation model by Susan Ambrose, PhD

Rejecting type

This type is characterized by a lack of belief in one’s own effectiveness, a lack of perceived value in learning, and a lack of support from the environment. In such scenarios, it may seem like the whole world is against the person and they find it difficult to motivate themselves to learn. This type of situation may arise when a student is required to pass an exam in a subject for which they lack foundational knowledge, and they do not see the practical value in the subject matter or are not interested in it. Additionally, the exam format may not be clear, making it difficult to set a goal and plan the study effectively. In such cases, the individual experiences internal repulsion and rejection towards the learning process, which may be further compounded by a lack of support from their surroundings. While this is an extreme scenario, it is not uncommon.

Evading type

The situation is similar to feeling rejected with one difference. Evading behavior can occur when individuals have a high level of confidence in their ability to learn and understand the material to be tested, but underestimate the amount of work required to succeed. As a result, they may develop a habit of procrastination and continuously delay their learning. This behavior can have negative consequences for their performance and overall success.

Hopeless type

This type is characterized by a desire to learn and achieve educational goals but feeling insufficiently equipped to do so due to a lack of competence and inadequate support from the environment. This type is unfortunately prevalent in the educational system, particularly in Poland, where the structure of the curriculum can often lead to this state. The long-term consequences of this phenomenon will be discussed in a separate article.

Defiant type

Defiant individuals are individuals who have a high sense of competence and value in learning a particular topic, but they face significant obstacles from their environment. These obstacles often cause frustration and can impede their progress. However, it’s important to recognize that this frustration can be the first step towards progress. This state can often lead to diverse and innovative thinking to overcome obstacles. That’s why one of our favorite quotes is: “Frustration is the first step on the road to progress.”

Fragile type

Fragile learners are those who lack self-confidence in their abilities, which can be a strong demotivating factor in their learning. These learners may have friends who always achieve high grades despite not believing in their own strength. A lack of self-confidence in planning and executing actions can hinder their potential and delay their learning progress. Additionally, when these learners enter their first job, they may not recognize their worth and may not seek promotions or salary increases.


In order to achieve true, balanced motivation, it is essential to ensure that all three key aspects are well-aligned: a strong belief in our ability to learn, a supportive environment that includes mentors, peers and others, and a clear understanding of the value and purpose of our learning goals.

While it may not always be possible to create the perfect learning environment, there are many steps we can take to improve our current situation, regardless of the specific context, learning objectives, and surrounding individuals. By proactively seeking out mentors, setting clear learning goals, and staying focused on the benefits and outcomes of our efforts, we can maintain high levels of motivation and achieve success in our learning endeavors.

The subsequent section comprises a guide supplemented with relevant insights and practical examples from our experience. Additionally, you may also find scattered musings and firsthand accounts that further illustrate the topic.

How can we assess the perceived value of the learning goal?

  1. It is essential to define learning goals based on the value they bring both in the short and long term. Focus on tangible, realistic, and practical aspects that you can identify and envision.

  2. It is also important to connect learning goals with future plans and aspirations. Any goal that brings you closer to achieving your dreams, whether directly or indirectly, is worth pursuing. Consider writing down your goals and displaying them prominently to serve as a daily reminder of why you do what you do.

  3. Moreover, ensure that what you learn translates into a real increase in your competencies. Continuously assess whether your efforts result in personal growth, and compare yourself to who you were yesterday rather than to someone else who is where you are today, as recommended by Jordan Peterson.

  4. Select study goals that align with your passions or interests. There are various learning methods available, and for many individuals the mode of learning can significantly impact the learning experience. Whether you prefer to study alone or with someone, attend lectures or delve into the library archives alone, the process itself can enhance the value of learning if it is engaging or enjoyable for you personally. This can help you develop your skills and knowledge while simultaneously providing entertainment and satisfaction.

Maintain a sense of efficacy while learning

We have several ways to influence our sense of learning effectiveness. This guide will emphasize the principles of efficient learning, which can significantly boost our motivation to learn and aid us in developing successful learning experiences for the Bethink solutions users. To ensure clarity, we have categorized these principles into distinct groups.

Selection of educational materials

  1. The selection of educational materials is critical for efficient learning. Before starting a course of study, it is important to conduct an initial self-assessment to determine your level of preparation. This enables you to anticipate challenges and maintain motivation throughout the learning process. Additionally, it increases the likelihood of developing a viable and effective study plan.

  2. It is crucial to ensure that the educational materials align with your learning goals. Before beginning to study, gather all necessary materials and seek advice from mentors, teachers, or experienced colleagues to confirm that the materials will contribute to your objectives. Nothing can be more demotivating than realizing weeks into a course that you have been learning irrelevant material. Always prioritize the most important topics first, and avoid wasting time reading irrelevant content.

  3. Choose educational materials that are concise and relevant to avoid wasting time sifting through irrelevant information. Your choice of educational sources can significantly affect your learning efficiency and motivation. Time-consuming study material can demotivate you, making it challenging to maintain interest and focus.

Learning Management

  1. Break down the learning material into manageable chunks to facilitate proper planning and effort estimation required for each topic. Allocate time for a specific amount of material in each study session, ensuring adequate breaks for rest and focus. Avoid interrupting the learning process midway. Completion of small tasks regularly sustains motivation, and understanding of the subject matter improves as we learn.

  2. Develop a work plan based on your expected graduation date, including rest days and contingencies to catch up on material if needed. Consistently changing plans can be demotivating, so it’s essential to stick to the schedule, monitor progress and make adjustments only in unexpected situations. This discipline keeps us aware of our progress and motivates us to continue learning.

  3. Include repetition periods in your work plan as a critical component of effective learning. Many experts recommend allocating equal time for learning new material and repetition in a 1:1 ratio. After several years of experience with course design at Bethink, we are inclined to agree. Repetition helps to systematize information, develop skills and reinforce learning. Albeit tedious, repetition positively impacts our motivation to learn. Each repetition builds confidence in our ability to master the material and retain knowledge.

Adhere to the plan without deviation to track progress and make informed decisions. Knowing how much work remains and staying up to date motivates us to continue learning and catch up on missed material. Avoid changing the plan except in unforeseen circumstances.

Knowledge Systematization and Organization

  1. Create a visual representation of the entire subject to be learned, including its sections and key issues. This will enable you to establish appropriate categories that can later be filled with relevant details. Diagrams, tables, or mind maps are ideal for this task – providing a comprehensive overview of the material and minimizing the risk of overlooking any critical components. This approach will enhance your motivation and prevent a decline in it.

  2. Conduct proper testing and evaluation to effectively organize your knowledge and assess your understanding. Active repetition, which involves retrieving information from long-term memory, is the best approach for this task. It helps to identify any missed or misunderstood information and increases your motivation to learn by reinforcing your knowledge. It also avoids the phenomenon of the illusion of knowledge.

Leaving tangible results behind your work

  1. Creating physical evidence of your work is important to help you stay motivated and appreciate the progress you have made. Taking clear and organized notes during your study sessions allows for more efficient revision and helps you retain information better. When taking notes, write as if someone else will be using them to learn. This will ensure that your notes are clear and easy to understand.

  2. Flashcards are another tool that can be used to leave a physical impact after your work. They are especially useful when notes take up too much space. While phone applications can be convenient, physical flashcards have a tangible presence that can catch your attention and remind you to use them regularly. By having a physical pile of flashcards, you increase the likelihood of using them and improve your retention of information.

Monitoring the implementation of the plan, learning progress and its effects

It is crucial to track your progress regularly to ensure that you are achieving your learning goals. Monitor the time spent studying and the topics covered during each session. This will allow you to evaluate your progress, adjust your study plan, and identify areas that require more attention. Additionally, consider using metrics such as quizzes or assessments to measure your understanding of the material. These metrics will help you objectively evaluate your performance and identify areas that need improvement.

Remember that it is important to stay motivated throughout the learning process. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem, and use them as motivation to keep moving forward. Additionally, consider finding a study partner or joining a study group to stay accountable and motivated. Finally, keep in mind that learning is a continuous process, and the results may not always be immediate. Stay patient and persistent, and trust that your efforts will pay off in the long run. It is crucial to avoid comparing yourself to others while learning. Each individual learns at their own pace, and their level of effectiveness varies. Therefore, even if a friend is ahead with the material, it does not necessarily reflect your progress. In fact, it can be beneficial to slow down and revisit the basics frequently.

Closing topics at the end while learning

Achieving success in learning requires a strategic approach, including the subdivision of larger goals into smaller, more achievable tasks. Each completed task, whether it be reviewing flashcards, working through a set of notes, or ticking off a milestone on a work plan, represents a significant achievement that builds motivation. Daily goal setting and consistent progress tracking help maintain focus and generate a sense of accomplishment. Failure to break down complex tasks into smaller components can result in a lack of immediate rewards, leading to decreased motivation and difficulty maintaining progress over time.

Hygiene in mental work

Maintaining good mental hygiene is critical for optimal productivity. It’s essential to take regular breaks during study sessions to ensure that the information learned is effectively retained in memory. Failure to do so may result in poor recollection of the material, leading to decreased motivation. However, after a successful learning session, even remembering 50% of the material is a significant accomplishment. Consistent repetition of the material over time will help increase memory retention and recall.

Sleep is a vital component of maintaining a high level of mental output. Without sufficient rest, your ability to engage in active intellectual effort will be impaired. It’s crucial to remember that the consolidation of knowledge, which involves the merging of new information with existing knowledge, takes place at the molecular level in the neurons of the brain during sleep. This process only occurs during sleep, so it’s essential to get enough rest to maximize the learning process. Before exams, it’s natural to experience a heightened need for sleep, as the brain must sort through all the information received during the day.

The impact of the environment on the process of learning

Regardless of the circumstances of one’s learning journey, there are ways to enhance the learning environment and increase motivation.

Minimize distractions from the surroundings

To achieve this, it is recommended to reduce all potential distractions, such as switching your phone to airplane mode, closing social media tabs on your computer, using earplugs, and playing quiet instrumental music. Otherwise these elements can significantly overload your working memory, resulting in difficulty concentrating and comprehending the material. If your focus is constantly interrupted, it can lead to a gradual accumulation of unfinished work, which can ultimately undermine your motivation.

Seeking environmental support
  1. Collaborative learning can be a powerful tool to enhance your skills and knowledge, but it’s important to choose your learning partners wisely. Depending on your starting level of knowledge and preparation, it may be beneficial to team up with like-minded individuals who can offer valuable insights and support. However, regardless of who you learn with, it’s critical to be in a conducive learning environment where everyone is focused on achieving their goals. Working alongside others who are dedicated to their work or studies can help you stay motivated and on track. Seeing others work hard can provide a boost of energy that inspires you to push yourself further and resist distractions.

  2. Don’t be afraid to seek support from those closest to you, particularly those who understand the challenges you face. Small gestures like making tea, turning down the music, or simply offering words of encouragement can make a significant difference in your learning journey. Remember, you’re not alone in your struggles, and the support of loved ones can provide the strength you need to succeed!

Learning atmosphere

Creating a positive learning atmosphere is essential. Simple steps like organizing your space, playing calming music, and studying with supportive companions can boost motivation and improve learning outcomes.

Designing a productive study area

Choosing the right study environment is crucial to success. Consider your needs and preferences, as your usual workspace may not always be conducive to learning. Create a study area that meets your requirements and supports your motivation. Keep it organized and free of distractions, with educational materials readily accessible.


If you have such opportunities, try to get feedback. Gathering feedback can boost motivation and validate progress. Seek input from teachers, mentors, or peers to ensure you are on the right track and to receive positive reinforcement for your efforts.


To assist those struggling with learning, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list so anyone who feels that learning causes them problems can come back here and use it as needed.

Motivation is the force behind our actions, determining our success or failure. It is the wind that can take us to the heights or move us to the least desirable place. By consciously analyzing the factors that influence it, we can optimize learning. Setting clear and realistic goals, assessing our abilities and utilizing our environment are keys to success. Celebrating every accomplishment, no matter how small, will propel us further. If you have any doubts or questions, feel free to contact us via our social media channels.