Spark Motivation with the BRAVEST Strategy

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Sparking Student Motivation: The Power of Teachers to Rekindle a Love for Learning
By Eric M. Anderman
(Corwin, 2021 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Sarah Pennington

Motivation is one of the major ingredients in the recipe for student success, yet many teachers (myself included) often struggle with how to nurture our students’ motivation.

Dr. Eric Anderman, has created an easy-to-read guide for teachers that would make an excellent choice for a grade-level, or district-wide book club or professional learning community pick.

The book is split into two parts. Part I provides teachers with a strong knowledge base regarding what motivation is, how teachers can support that motivation, and elements of motivation that are key players in the classroom, such as self-efficacy and achievement values. Part II offers teachers specific practices to implement in the classroom that will support students’ motivation for learning.

In each chapter, the author includes a variety of tools, including:

  • activities to help teachers consider their own and their students’ motivation
  • strategies for the classroom
  • motivation myths and truths
  • a chapter summary
  • a section on applying the information from the chapter

Easy-to-implement tools

There are so many specific tools within the book that got my gears turning and had me reflecting on previous students in my middle classroom, as well as my own interactions with those students. Some of these, such as Strategy 1.2 (assessing your students’ confidence about a specific unit) provide easy-to-implement ideas.

Others, such as Activity 6.6 (reflecting on a specific assessment), present an opportunity for the teacher/reader to push themselves in thinking about a challenging assessment they have previously used and how they could better assess students and support their engagement with the topic beyond the assessment.

One topic that is sometimes overlooked when discussing student motivation is behavior management. Anderman devotes an entire chapter to prompt the reader to consider how the teacher’s behavior management style can influence student motivation.

He also does an excellent job explaining how engagement differs from and relates to motivation. Figure 8.3 provides strategies for promoting student engagement with specific classroom examples for each to support teachers in understanding what each strategy looks like in action.

BRAVEST ways to promote motivation

In the final chapter, Anderman provides an acronym (BRAVEST – Behavior, Relationships, Autonomy, Value, Efficacy, Sharing, Testing) to help teachers consider how they can promote motivation in their classroom.

Table 9.2 provides teacher guidance on understanding BRAVEST, where in the book to look for more information on each specific aspect of the acronym, and information on how/why each relates to student motivation. Table 9.3 puts BRAVEST into practice by providing guiding questions for teacher to consider as they plan lessons and begin each new day with their students.

Overall, this book is an excellent resource for teachers and one I would recommend to any educator who is open to deep self-reflection and ready to make changes in their practice and classroom culture that will benefit their students’ motivation and engagement with learning.

Dr. Sarah E. Pennington taught middle language arts for a decade before returning to to pursue her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. She is currently an assistant professor at Montana State University, where she teaches pre-service educators the ins and outs of supporting young literacy learners. She also provides professional development in literacy and motivation to teachers across the nation.

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