Teachers use traditional incentive systems with the best of intentions. We’re trying to support students’ positive behavior. We’re hoping to motivate and inspire students to work hard and do well in school. If everyone behaves, we’ll have a pizza party. The more books you read, the more stickers you’ll receive. On the surface, these systems seem to make sense. They may even seem to work–at least at first. But in the long term, they do not foster intrinsic motivation or a love or learning. In fact, they often have the opposite effect.

In this book, we’ll explore…

  • The damage done by extrinsic motivation systems and why they are so hard for us to give up.

  • Six intrinsic motivators—autonomy, belonging, competence, purpose, fun, and curiosity—that foster self-motivation and deep engagement.

  • How to teach the self-management and self- motivation skills that can make a difference for kids.

  • How to use intrinsic motivation in curricula and instructional strategies, feedback and assessment, and discipline and classroom management.

Ultimately, our job as teachers is not to motivate our students. It’s to make sure that our classrooms and schools are places that inspire their intrinsic motivation and allow it to flourish. Anderson shows how you can better do that right away—no matter what grade level or subject area you teach.



Mike Anderson’s Tackling the Motivation Crisis is a guide we all need to help us help students change from compliant to self-motivated learners.

-Carl Anderson, Author and Literacy Consultant

As a superintendent of schools, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard from classroom teachers, the students are not motivated to learn.  Mike suggests that 1. We stop incentivizing students, 2. We tap into students’ intrinsic motivators, and 3. We teach students the skills of self-management.  Great–he blows up two decades of behavioral science as applied to the classroom! So now what’s a teacher to do? That is the magic of this book.  He offers practical, teacher friendly ideas that can be applied by teachers to shift the paradigm from a reliance on external to internal motivation.  This book is groundbreaking, not because it challenges prevailing behavioral science wisdom, but because it does so while providing teachers an exciting set of practical ideas that can be implemented immediately, something every teacher treasures.  Imagine a world where students want to do schoolwork!  What a world that would be!

-Dr. Jim Morse, Superintendent of the Oyster River Cooperative School District, NH

Have your students ever asked, “Is this going to be graded?” or “Why do we have to do this?” If so, this book is going to save you a lot of headaches and inspire change! In Tackling the Motivation Crisis, Anderson explains how many of our current practices, intended to increase engagement, create compliance at best. You will devour this book as you relate to stories about “chip theft,” beach stone crafts, and how group work and “fun” are like broccoli (“Broccoli is a healthy food, but that doesn’t mean we should eat it with every meal.”) This text, with its practical classroom examples and analogies, will help readers better understand the psychology of motivation, break the cycle of student disinterest, and create equitable opportunities for all students to be self-directed, empowered learners.
– Katie Novak, education consultant and best-selling author of UDL NowEquity by Design, and Innovate Inside the Box

We’ve all been there, facing a gauntlet of “unmotivated” and “disengaged” students. We’ve wished and hoped that something would magically appear to help get them connected and inspired. However, as Mike Anderson points out in Tackling the Motivation Crisis, our best bet isn’t to try to change the kids, it’s to fix a broken system. With a healthy dose of common sense and a plethora of practical ideas, Mike addresses educator mindsets, curriculum, feedback, grading, discipline – elements of schooling that are under our control – so we might revamp our approaches and tap into our students’ innate and intrinsic curiosity. Kids want to be successful…most just aren’t interested in becoming cogs in a machine. We must do better, and with Mike’s guidance, we can.

-Pete Hall, former principal and author, Creating a Culture of Reflective Practice


Mike Anderson’s book challenges educators to give up the gimmicks and lean into designing learning experiences with and for students that give them compelling reasons to self-motivate and invest. A must-read for anyone seeking to support the development of authentic, intrinsic motivation in students.

-Holly Martin, Staff Development and Professional Learning Specialist for the Mountain Brook, AL Public Schools 

Want to facilitate a book group?

I have created a study guide for people who would like to facilitate a book group on this book.

Check out the free study guide here!