Home Book Reviews Exploring Self-Driven Learning and Student Motivation (Ferlazzo)

Exploring Self-Driven Learning and Student Motivation (Ferlazzo)


Ferlazzo Offers Resources, Ideas, and Inspiration

I’ve admired the work of Larry Ferlazzo since early on in my blogging career. I first came across him back when his blog earned numerous Edublog nominations and awards starting back around 2009. In the years since, he has been a prolific author, with numerous books about student motivation, a topic dear to my heart and mind.

Now I must admit with some embarrassment that it was only last week that I finally bought one of his many well-regarded books and started digging into it. Once I started reading Self-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation, I seriously didn’t want to put it down! This baby is just chock full of ideas, tools, and the kind of thinking that inspires me.

Self-Driven Learning … starts by making the case against extrinsic rewards as motivation. Ferlazzo cites an array of studies that make it clear that intrinsic or autonomous motivations are more effective than external rewards. Points, grades, and percentages are external motivational levers that do not consistently deliver the desired effect from all students. Fortunately, many studies show that engaging lessons, cooperative “discovery learning”, and many other techniques can encourage students to take learning into their own hands. In the book, many of these techniques are explored.

Throughout the book, Ferlazzo also offers links to sets of resources for further exploration, like these:

The Brain is like a muscle – developing a growth mind set.

It’s always been a belief of mine that everyone learns much better when they are treated and spoken to respectfully (as opposed to being talked down to, which is something too many teachers are far too willing to do).

Continuing on through Chapter 1, the author gets into the value of helping students understand that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with regular and rigorous use. A mini-lesson is offered in which students can explore the way that mistakes help the brain learn. Additional motivational techniques that build on instilling a growth mind set are shared and supported with research, including:

  • The value of letting students see their own progress
  • The benefits of setting and achieve goals
  • The importance of helping students understand the relevance of topics to their own lives

The Chapter concludes with insights into the value of letting students teach other students as an intrinsic motivator. An extensive 5 Day “Teaching Others Lesson Plan” is provided, as are more “Best Resource” listings, like these two:

So obviously, I’m really enjoying Larry’s book and look forward to sharing some more about it here before long (I think I’ll reach out and ask him if he’s up for an interview too)!

Here’s the link again, if you want to pick up a copy for yourself: Self-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation

Also, Larry has quite a few other books out, including a brand new one, Building a Community of Self Motivated Learners. Stop by and check out his blog as well.



  1. Motivating students is not an easy task. The curriculum becomes a tool not the focus.
    Connecting with the students becomes the critical aspect of motivation. As teachers, we must know our students. Where do they come from? What do they value? How to make the learning \”real\” to them and connect the learning to they life. If we can answer the question, \”How does this help me?\”, they will be engaged and responsible for their own learning. If we fail to connect with them students will not respond positively to the learning. The learning becomes memorization rather than \”deep learning\”.
    How is this accomplished?
    As a student, I always learned best when I felt the teacher cared. I felt recognized and valued as a partner in the teaching/ learning process. When I got lost in the minutia of the new skill or concept it was the word of encouragement, the guidance, the recognition that I was struggling, that gave me the push I needed to move forward. There was also the recognition by the teacher that I had been empowered with the mastery of the new concept or skill and I could in turn be a resource for others. Wasn\’t it Yogi Bhajan who said, \”
    If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”
    We learn as we teach. We should guide the learner, act as the facilitator. Ensure when they leave us, they are not shackled by the limits of the curriculum but empowered with the skills they need to seek out and effectively determine the credibility of knowledge. As they progress through school, ensure there are opportunities to succeed and feel \”smart\”. If you are confident in your understanding of a new concept or skill, you want to learn more. Each new learning experience should be laced with the acknowledgement that each learner is capable. The behaviors I encountered as a student and continue to model as a teacher have been effective approaches to instilling student motivation for learning.

    Thank you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here