Student motivation is a huge challenge. We know from our research that 69% of teachers say that student motivation is an issue in their classroom. We also know that intrinsic motivation declines continuously from kindergarten through high school. Motivation decreases in the jump from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school.

We’ve created a simple framework, which fits the acronym REACH, that brings together big bodies of research from education and psychology into a simple way of thinking about factors that influence student’s desire to work hard in class.


Relationships help kids grow and thrive. There are five elements in a developmental relationship. They are Expressing Care, Challenging Growth, Providing Support, Sharing Power, Expanding Possibility.

2. Effort

With a “growth mindset”, students learn that their intelligence is not fixed or limited and, with effort, they can improve in school and in other areas of their lives.

3. Aspirations

Aspirations give kids a clear sense of their possible selves and a positive vision of what they could be in the future. It’s important to connect that possible self with the things they do (or don’t do) every day. The aspirations category can be summed up in the phrase, “think forward, act now”.

4. Cognition

Helping kids think about their thinking and understand that their brains are controllable is the role of the cognition category. We all have a hot brain—for quick thinking or fast decision making—and a cold brain—which allows great thought and deliberation. When kids become aware that they can think about their own thinking, they can better manage learning and persist through difficulty and distraction.

5. Heart

The Heart category is helping kids understand their sparks, or what gives them meaning and enjoyment. It also takes into account their most important values.

When a teacher knows these five things, it can produce significant changes in motivation for kids that can help them for a lifetime.

Click here to download a free growth mindset activity to try in your school or classroom, from our REACH strategies guidebook.

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