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February 27, 2020

Key Principles to Motivate Students To Be Successful In Middle School

As every parent and teacher has experienced first-hand, there can be profound chasm between a child’s ability to learn versus their interest. 

This can be especially true for middle schoolers. So how do you motivate students to be successful in middle school? 

Thankfully, there are many strategies that parents and educators can use to engage and motivate middle school students.

private middle school in Harrisonburg, VA

student raises hand in private middle school Harrisonburg, VA




The typical adolescent student thrives on goals. 

Helping young learners to establish manageable goals, along with strategies for the incremental steps necessary to achieve them, can deliver powerful results. 

Parents and teachers who regularly utilize goal setting as a means for engaging and motivating middle school students will also see ancillary benefits such an an increase in students’ ability to monitor their own progress and develop skills in self-regulated learning.


Goals which students set for themselves are often more effective in motivating successful behaviors than goals established solely by teachers or parents. 

In the research report “Effects Of Planning And Goal Setting On Reducing Latency To Task Engagement For Struggling Readers In Middle School” by Nathan A. Stevenson, researchers  found that “participation in goal setting promotes self-efficacy, enhances motivation, and develops skills that enhance self-regulation…students who set their own goals demonstrated greater self-regulated learning and confidence in goal attainment than students with goals assigned.”




Fostering a growth mindset supports students’ intrinsic motivation and prevents them from getting stuck in a fixed way of thinking that will inhibit their current and future learning.

What we encourage throughout our Pre-K to 8th grade curriculum here at our Christian School in Harrisonburg, VA is a growth mindset in which our students understand that their intelligence and skills will grow over time and with ongoing experience. 

We prepare your children to fully believe in their ability to affect their success through effort so that they will achieve their goals in life through hard work and perseverance, as well as model this behavior to others in their community.  


What we want to prevent is a fixed mindset, in which a student believes his or her personal qualities are fixed traits that cannot be changed. 

This type of mindset can lead someone to believe that talent, not effort, is what leads to success.

Educator John Spencer offers a great explanation of growth versus fixed mindsets on his YouTube channel




When students feel accepted by their teacher and peers, and thus feel a sense of belonging, they are more motivated to complete their classwork and achieve in their assignments because they want to live up to their teacher’s expectations and prove themselves among their classmates.


According to the research of Amanda Wall and Samuel D. Miller as published in their report “Middle Grades Teachers‘ Use of Motivational Practices to Support Their Visions and Identities as Middle Grades Educators”, it is essential for educators of middle school students to create welcoming, motivating environments that encourage all of their students to learn and feel accepted. 

When students are in a safe learning space where they are able to make mistakes and grow, it enables them to learn and be motivated.


middle schoolers in private christian school in VA



According to renowned psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s ability to influence events that effect one’s life and control over the way these events are experienced.” 

In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Our self-efficacy determines how we think, behave and feel.


When parents and teachers have a high sense of self-efficacy, it creates a more positive learning environment for students, which can have a big impact on the motivation of young learners. 

That’s because when children see their parent or teacher being positive and enthusiastic about educational content, it inspires children to model their own behavior after this positivity and can increase their motivation to invest in the material. 




Visiting us in person is the best way to understand the investment of a lifetime that you can make for your child’s future through enrollment in our private middle school in Harrisonburg, VA.

Let us host you for a private visit, or, stop by during one of our open houses.


You can learn more about Cornerstone Christian School tuition on our website and if you have any questions about enrollment, you can contact our Development Director Stephanie Shafer directly by email at or by phone at (540)432-9816

We look forward to welcoming you!