Gilbert, I (2013) Essential Motivation in the Classroom: Oxon: Routledge

208 pages

Cost: £17.99 (paperback)

ISBN 978 0 415 64355 9

This book provides comprehensive guidance for enhancing pupil motivation in the classroom and the benefits from doing so. This book was first published ten years ago, yet surprisingly given the pace of change in education it is still relevant for today’s classroom. It is a practical guide that would be informative and amusing for all those seeking inspiration for new or different motivational strategies.

The book is split into easy to read chapters, including a ‘How to read this book’ section to ensure the reader gains as much from the book as possible. The main chapters focus upon the seven key elements needed for essential motivation, inspired by Eric Jensen’s ‘Super Teaching’. The book is well structured with the chapters relating to each other and building upon points raised in previous chapters. The overriding message is that intrinsic motivation is key in education and Gilbert offers practical advice on how this can be achieved in the classroom. The first chapter explores what we are motivating children for and raises many questions about classroom practice. Chapter 2 has a clear focus on intelligence and explores Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences in a clear, practical style making it accessible to ITE students through using figures such as David Beckham and Princess Diana to demonstrate the different intelligences, however they made need to research who Charlie Dimmock is. This chapter also discusses Csikszentmihalyi’s theory on happiness being a state of mind which is a theme that is developed and referred to frequently throughout the book.

Chapters 3 to 5 focus on a range of strategies for motivating pupils and offer suggestions that are practical, realistic and examples are given to illustrate their effectiveness. It a common element running through the book, that these strategies could work and are based on experience. They are not idealistic and originate from someone who has witnessed firsthand their impact on pupil motivation.

Chapter 6 ‘Reptiles in the Classroom’ is an interesting chapter exploring Paul Maclean’s work on the reptilian brain and the impact that this can have upon motivation in the classroom. It raises the issue of children’s perceptions of their environment and provides a valuable insight for practitioners about how children may feel in certain classroom situations. The ‘contain, entertain, explain’ approach suggested to overcome these feelings provides an interesting ‘how to’ guide that would be beneficial for any ITE student and even established classroom practitioners. Gilbert also draws upon the work of Maslow and Goleman, exploring the need for practitioners to be emotionally intelligent and aware of the whole child and their needs. Again these theories are expanded upon and examples given that make them easy to understand.

The final chapter entitled ‘Motivation is a four letter word’ focuses upon hope and that is gained from reading this book. There is hope and if the advice given in the book is acted upon there is no reason why children in the classroom should not be well motivated and achieving to the best of their varied abilities.

Each chapter is peppered with examples and supported by thought provoking quotations from sages of wisdom including Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela and interestingly Homer Simpson.  The quotations whilst thought provoking also provide some light relief breaking up the sections and often acting as memory hooks. There are handy bullet point summaries at the end of each chapter which serve as an ‘aide memoire’ and provide an opportunity for reflection.

This book is easy to read and definitely worthwhile for all involved with education. It s a book that can be read once and elements will linger, long after you have finished reading. It is also one to be kept close by, to use for reference purposes throughout any teaching career when a helping hand maybe needed.

Louise Wormwell,  Senior Lecturer, Newman University College,