Dr. Ellen Littman, clinical Psychologist, explains that brains with low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (in ADHD) are chronically "under aroused," and benefit from rewards. Rewards stimulate dopamine, which leads to increased motivation. So students with ADHD and low motivation aren't just being "lazy." They really do need external motivation (rewards) to increase their productivity and motivation to complete academic tasks.
Reading this article about how gamification affects dopamine in the brain, which in turn increases motivation, made me wonder if "gamifying" could help students with motivation problems. It's not necessarily practical for everyone, but it's worth considering how "gaming" might help students who particularly struggle with motivating themselves to work harder. If they could become more self-motivated, it reduces the need for teachers to constantly that motivation.
The author reviews a few studies that show people are more motivated by intrinsic rewards. Does this have implications for those of us teaching kids with serious motivation problems? Possibly. It sounds too simple, but the "meaningful" factor that was so important for adult motivation might help our kids, as well. Find a way to make the assignments more meaningful, and perhaps this can help boost motivation, as well. I know it's easier said than done on a daily basis in the classroom!
We all know that a well-designed and planned project can engage and motivate students -- particularly those with motivation and attention problems -- more than traditional "seatwork" and passive learning. If you want studies and proof that it helps students with motivation, here it is. "In PBL classrooms . . . [students] exhibit more engagement, are more self-reliant, and have better attendance than in more traditional settings."
It's widely accepted that students with some neurological disorders (including ADHD) benefit from external rewards, even more than neurotypical children. This resource allows you to select a reward idea for elementary, middle, or high school-aged students. One idea for elementary students is allowing the child to sit next to the teacher during a lesson, or be a teacher helper. Middle and high school students could choose a text selection to be read in class. Lots of ideas here!
I love Teaching Channel videos! This one features a new teacher trying to help his students with ADHD succeed. A veteran, knowledgeable teacher observes his classroom and gives him feedback and tips to keep them focused and motivated. I wanted to tell him to rearrange the desks and move around the classroom, rather than standing in front of rows of desks. This video is specific, practical, and "real."