How to demotivate students in two easy steps

(And this is happening ALL across the country !!)

This is WHY I have a career and why ‘The Big Picture’ manages to make the huge impact that we do with students across the UK.

Nearly 4000 student Facebook fans can’t be wrong !!!

There are two BIG factors that concern me right now about our education system that are causing students to be more demotivated.

  1. EMA – Education maintenance allowance
  2. FEAR – and the culture of not allowing mistakes

These two factors are discouraging students and demotivating them.

I’ll explain:

1. EMA – Education Maintenance Allowance

The reason we go to school is because of these long term motivators … our desire to…

  1. Learn (be educated).
  2. Grow (if you don’t you’ll die !).
  3. Get a better life.

No-one ever went to school for the sake of it and it is not always going to be enjoyable – it just isn’t. BUT, it is a damn sight more enjoyable NOW than in the days when I went to school, just trust me. However, contradicting this is the fact that students are less engaged than they used to be!! This is not a FACT but it is true (as I have no data to prove it).

BUT we then introduce a short term motivating factor called ‘money’ which is the government’s way of saying ‘please go to school’ and ‘please work hard’ and I’ll pay you for doing so.

This message is so confusing…

  • It means that everything becomes short-termist.
  • You’ll get paid for coming to school – this is extrinsic, not intrinisic.
  • You’ll get something NOW ie. money.
  • You’ll focus more on this (the short-term) and less on where it’s taking you in your life (the long-term).

For some students the message it’s delivering is “you’re better off being poor because you’ll get EMA benefits over other students, so you might as well do nothing, be poor and just get the benefits instead!!” – imagine what kind of culture that builds?

2. FEAR – Not allowing students to make mistakes

I’m going to presume like most people that YOU learn most in your life when ‘things go wrong!’

Q. Is that true for you? It’s definitely true for me,

  • When I got divorced, I reconsidered everything about how I’d behaved and how I would behave in the future.
  • When I lost my job I worked out how to do better next time and avoid that situation, etc…

The time you changed most was when you ‘had to’ not when you ‘wanted to’. The two reasons people change are normally…

  • Inspiration
  • Desperation

… and the most powerful of these is desperation because it’s a threat that you ‘have to… do whatever you have to do …. or else’.

So, basically what I’m saying is that we learn most through making mistakes. That’s how everybody learns quickly.

Picture the scene then…

  • A student says “I’ve got no pen” – teacher says “I’ll get one for you,” when they should say “find one then”, or “copy the work up tomorrow”, but of course that doesn’t happen.
  • A student says “Not done my homework” – teacher says “don’t worry I’ll extend the deadline” when they should say “oh dear, that means you’ve failed this module”, or “sorry you get no marks then”, but of course this doesn’t happen.
  • A student says “I don’t want to do this” – teacher says “get on with it”, when they should say “well, that’s a choice you have to make”, but of course this doesn’t happen.

This is the teacher fixing the student’s problem. They’re not allowed to fail, at least that is the message that they get. Students, if they are to grow, have to find their own answers not answers we give them.

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t give a starving African food handouts indefinitely: you have to, at some point, give them the tools and the knowledge for them to grow their own food, not feed them!!

It’s the same for education.

BUT, in school… if they haven’t got the answers, we give them the answers.

BUT, in life… people don’t want the answers, they want the tools to find them for themselves.

So, you can see, something has gone wrong.

My job is to give students THOSE tools that they need for life not just the ANSWERS to life. My job is to let them make their mistakes and fail… not deliver them a ‘life’ with all of their answers, because… I don’t have them.

High Achievers DON’T Need a Degree!!

Q. Why would you need a degree when you don’t need one ?

A. You don’t!!!

An article in ‘The Guardian’ talks about how ‘high achieving students are spurning the debt and further education of university in favour of employment’

Let’s face it – we don’t need to do stuff we don’t need to do. We do stuff we do need to do. At least… that is the theory

So… why is it then that some of us feel like we’re going to university because we ‘ought to’ rather than we ‘want to’?

Nearly three-quarters of 1,180 A-level pupils surveyed by the site said they felt going to university was viewed as a necessity rather than a choice. Over half said that parents contributed to this feeling, while a fifth said pressure from school was to blame. It’s interesting because it means that many of us go to university because we ‘have to’ rather than because we ‘want to’.

There MUST be some confusion in our minds as to whether the value of university is all that it’s cracked up to be because of course, if all we do is end up….

  1. Wasting 4 more years of our life.
  2. Racking up £10,000’s of debt.
  3. Not getting closer to what we want at the end, or worse still not being sure that it was even of value.
  4. Not being qualified to do anything specifically at the end

Then you can see, that it would prevent people from making the big leap into university.

So, you can understand why some other students are choosing an alternative …

  1. Not waste any time – and go to FE college
  2. Not get into any debt and maybe even be sponsored or work part-time
  3. Be IN the workplace that you want to be in
  4. Being qualified AND having the experience to do what you wanna’ do

On paper, it looks like a ‘no-brainer’ and in a further survey of university students carried out by the same site, it appears that two-thirds don’t believe they will find work relating to their degree, and one in four feel that on-the-job training or an apprenticeship would have served them better in building a career in their chosen field.

Hardly surprising then that some of these young people are choosing to do what they’re doing. It begs the question in my mind as to whether the same is true for those that are encouraged to take ‘A’Levels etc…?

Because, just because it’s been something we’ve done in the past – does it have to be the right way for the future?

A quarter of young people in some areas of the country do not have a single qualification!!

One in four students in certain parts of the country have NO qualifications.

More than half a million other 16 to 24 year-olds have only one GCSE or the equivalent.

So, what is the problem and what is the solution?
Well, for me… it’s simple.

The problem?

Well, the reason why students don’t get exam grades of any sort is because it’s not ‘important’ to them!!

It might be important to teachers and other people, but students only do stuff they do want to do, not stuff they don’t want to do…!!

  • If students cannot see WHY they’re doing something, and other things in their life take priority (like socialising, Xbox and doing nothing!) then they’ll do that instead. Anything else requires too much willpower.
  • YOU ALL KNOW that students only do things WHEN they become important. Even ‘mature’ students come back to school with a reinvigorated mind – NOT a new brain!! They’re not cleverer; they just ‘want it more’!!
  • The time when we ALL achieve most in our lives is when we want to – NOT when we don’t…it’s the reason why I have a career and am making life changing and exam improving results for schools and their students.

So, what is the solution?

  • Well, at some point, the student needs to feel a ‘shift’ in their life that gets them to want to do it more. If they decide they want to do things then they will: if they don’t, they won’t.
  • The engagement skills I deliver to teachers definitely help (because they’ve told me so) but at some point there has to be a ‘shock’ in the life of the students to make them see something different.
  • The biggest mistakes and biggest ‘lifeshocks’ in my life have been the single biggest driver of everything in my existence.
  • If you don’t get under anyone’s skin then nothing happens. My job is to get under the ‘skin’ of the students and that’s what I do. My job is to give them that ‘shock’. It’s the reason why we’re SOLD OUT again and have nearly 3,000 students subscribing to the Facebook page.

If you want to find out how…. check out

Article in Times Online

The problem with ALL education is this country!!!

I go into a different school every day and this is what I see !!
1. Teachers that are working harder than the students – how mad is that? Under the present system, the teachers want the results more than the students themselves!!
2. I also see students that are not intrinsically motivated, and….teachers that are forever ‘spoon-feeding’ the students to get better results.
3. You’ll find kids that don’t do anything for themselves….they don’t even learn for themselves. Many of them don’t even bring in a pen or a pencil.

BUT, the best learning is when you find out stuff, not when you just get ‘told’ it !!

I find it utterly alarming, and much of it has to do with the teaching style (I’m not trying to be rude to teachers) and the attitude towards ‘failure’ in this country, where young people are not allowed to fail or make mistakes and find out for themselves.
This country and many others are paralysed by fear; afraid of ‘this’ or afraid of what they’ll think and even afraid of success!! (because, you can ONLY go downhill after!!! – that is how fearful people think).

• The time when YOU learnt MOST in your life was not when everything went right!!! This is not a fact but it is the truth. It was when everything went wrong. That is REAL learning.
• The time when you learnt most was not when someone told you something: it was when you asked, because you wanted to find out.
• The time when you learnt most was when you were made to think, i.e. the teachers asked you a question – and you answered it.
• The time when you learnt most was when you most readily engaged with the teacher and not necessarily the subject. They struck a balance between caring for you and stretching your mind. Why was I brilliant at French with one teacher and useless with another? Mmmm…
• The time when you achieved most in your life was when you wanted to, NOT when ‘someone else wanted you to’. Let’s face it; mature students return to school and never muck about. They aren’t cleverer; they just want it more!!!

You notice that I am not going to tell you THE SOLUTION to our education problem – that would be too easy; I just want to ask the question!!!

Part of THE SOLUTION is in my 2 hour workshop for teachers called “How to get students to learn in the quickest, easiest way”…

I could never be a teacher but I am a motivational speaker. My job is to enagage students and get them to learn some ‘life changing’ stuff – all in just 2 hours. I’ve now just applied all of that logic to helping teachers in the classroom.

I have neither the patience nor the knowledge to be a teacher; it’s a specialist thing. Teachers are amazing people, but they way they deliver their ‘learning’ is formulaic and lacking the most important quality – it doesn’t get students to ‘think’!!! It doesn’t get them to find out, make mistakes nor question. Teachers aren’t always confident at getting ‘buy-in’ from the students and engaging their minds. The way I do it shows you how to.

Giles Ennis (a cool science teacher) from Monks Dyke in Louth said….
I don’t want students to answer my questions – I want them to question my answers“.
This is genius, because what Giles is saying means that the pupils have to ‘think’ about it. Thinking and learning go hand in hand.

It’s this philosophy that means we’ve been 90% SOLD OUT for the last 3 months and 100% SOLD OUT for the next 6 weeks!!!

How NOT to motivate students…!!!

The techniques people often use…

Competition – this is a good thing BUT it’s good to realise that it doesn’t work for all students. The reality is, the only person who is truly motivated by competition is the student who thinks he/she has a chance of winning!

Rewards don’t always work either, especially if the student is having difficulty. All reward systems are based on the concept that the student CAN DO IT, but what if they just choose NOT TO, that’s great if you know they’re not really trying.

Punishment is not normally a very effective way because it takes the student’s favourite thing, whether it be a football or a skateboard, and takes it away from them when they’re bad. In the adult world, marriages can break up over sex or money, and because one spouse takes something that the other spouse wants and uses it to manipulate the other person. You’re basically saying “I’ll give it to you when you’re good, and I won’t when you’re bad.” So if it doesn’t work with adults, maybe it might not be all that effective with kids?

So, what do I do to motivate??

The NINE RULES I use to motivate students are inspired by the author Richard Lovoie.

1. Play – have fun, enjoy, enthuse and bring energy to the room. “No-one ever achieved anything without enthusiasm” – Emerson.
2. Personal – School is about life…

  • Indulge your students and listen to their stories.
  • Indulge yourself – share your stories with them… if it benefits them.

3. Provoke – ask questions about life; ask questions about the topic – it gets them to think. It’s powerful when they get to see things through their own minds !
4. Praise – catch people doing things right. Be focused on praise BUT be specific and sincere. The praise should be focused on effort and improvement – this is always effective. We all need to feel good enough.
5. Power – let your students determine some of the agenda or make certain rules. This gets them feeling like they’re ‘in charge’; without you losing control.
6. Projects – these are very powerful mechanisms for connecting different skills and knowledge and harnessing natural curiosity.
7. Positive People – this gets them to learn quickly how to behave in a positive manner.
8. Prizes – rewards can be powerful when they are unannounced and not too familiar. Prizes can be as innocuous or as humorous as you like.
9. Prestige – all students need to feel important – some more than others – so prestige and recognition are fundamental. Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase talent are important.

That’s it!

These techniques are NOT magic as you can see; they’re just ways of keeping people focused when their natural attention wanes. Overall, it’s incredibly powerful, it’s effective and…

…it’s a lot of fun!!

Why students aren’t motivated…


This is the $64Million Question…

Teachers are constantly asking me for answers and it’s certainly given me cause for thought over the past few years.

I do NOT have THE answers, but I do have some observations of what is different today, versus the ‘past’.

I know you can’t generalise, but I do believe that there have been some movements and trends throughout the years:

First…there are ONLY 2 motivating factors that us humans are driven by…

  1. Avoiding Pain – things we want to get away from.
  2. Seeking Pleasure – getting more of the things we want.

ALSO, you need to know that ‘Avoiding Pain’ is a bigger motivator than seeking pleasure.

SO, what’s changed then?

My observation is that ‘many’ of the ‘AVOIDING PAIN’ motivators (which are so powerful) have either diminished or GONE altogether…

Factor 1 : Religion – going to ‘HELL’ used to be a big thing; today it is not. Religious shame was a very powerful motivating force in the past to ‘make you do things’ – but, not now.

Factor 2 : ‘Victorian’ dad – this role has softened over the years as the children have taken on an ever bigger role in society and the ‘father figure’ diminished. There was once a time when the father of the house was someone to ‘fear’ if you stepped out of line, but this has changed.

Factor 3 : Corporal Punishment – ‘getting the cane’ was a big thing when I was at school; Mr Goodman (the scary deputy headteacher) was someone to be avoided at all costs. NOW you can’t ‘touch’ a child for fear of being sued and sacked from your post.

Factor 4 : Poverty – this is becoming a thing of the past. Most people have heating, lighting, water, clothes, food and all of the mod cons (phones, tv’s etc…). When I was a kid, this was not the case; we even had paraffin heaters and home-made beds/clothes. Life in general is loads easier. Heating, washing your clothes, cooking and cleaning your house is now cheaper and a whole lot faster.

Factor 5 : Personal Responsibility – in my view, I believe that kids do less ‘jobs’ than they used to. They have more leisure time and less chores. There is no responsibility placed upon young children in preparation for their future years. My own feeling is that ‘jobs’ are good; they help kids appreciate the ‘value’ of things.

Factor 6 : The Internet – the dawn of the internet has now meant that kids can do less ‘thinking’ to complete tasks etc… this breeds laziness.

Factor 7 : Pressure from OFSTED and SATS - this pressure has meant that teachers want the results ‘more than the kids’!!! How mad is that? In my view, we should let students ‘fail’ more often to help them understand the value of success.

Factor 8 : Grown-ups are too often giving answers rather than asking questions – this is a big factor that is largely misunderstood. You don’t have to ‘think’ when someone gives you an answer, but you do have to ‘think’ when you answer a question. The process of thinking is ‘learning’ and takes effort. Grown-ups are often poor listeners and poor questioners; this means that you ‘talk at them and tell them stuff’, rather than letting them find out for themselves.

That’s it. My 8 factors that have contributed massively to making students less motivated and ‘hungry’ than they used to be…

It’s the reason why I have a ‘career’…!!

The resolutions that will totally change your life

These WILL change your life – I should know – they changed mine !!

When you think about it….

Whatever we do as students, or anything else for that matter, the idea of a New Year’s resolution is all about growth, and there’s only 2 areas that resolutions are ever focused on… FACT.

1. Growing your mind.
2. Growing your body.

That’s it…

So when people talk about being healthy, or making money, or seeing more of their family, or going out more, then you know it has something to do with one or both of these things.

OK. So to make life easy, I’ll give you 4 things to do that cost NO money at ALL that nutritionists and health experts tell me to do.


1. Sleep for 8 hours – WHY? Because sleep is the time when your body replenishes and rebuilds. This cannot be done in the gym or on the sofa!! 7 hours is not enough – FACT – even though you know someone who only has 6 hours per night and they seem fine etc… This is not about survival, this is about being at your best.

2. Chew your food – WHY? Your body’s energy levels are only as good as what it gets from you. The body likes food that is as small as possible because it takes less work and energy for your body to process. The less energy it takes, the more it gives you! This means you won’t be tired at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and yawning!!!

3. Exercise for 30 minutes every day – WHY? Expending energy builds energy!! It also makes you FEEL good and look good, improving your confidence etc… This exercise, preferably aerobic but maybe just walking, whatever it is, will keep you in great shape physically and mentally.

4. Drink a small glass of water every hour – WHY? If Your body is depleted by water by just 2 % it will have 20% less power to concentrate. The reason you don’t notice is because you’re always dehydrated!! When you’re born you are 98% water, when you die < 50%!


1. Say ‘WHY NOT?’ – WHY? People always say “Yes” or “No”, but this is a ‘closed minded approach’, because it means you’ve already decided. When you say “Why not?”, this lets things into your life and opens your outlook…it’s totally changed my world and allowed some MASSIVE opportunities to flourish.

2. Take a genuine interest in other people and say “Tell me more” – WHY? Let’s face it; you don’t have all of the answers, nobody ever does. But when you say “Tell Me More”, this way you get to find out loads of things for free and you’ll make more friends and more money ( I should know!!)

3. Accept what is and accept yourself… WHY? People normally try to be ‘Superman/Superwoman’. They want everything to be ‘just fine’ so they tell themselves that things are fine when they’re not and even pretend to others that this is the case.

4. Be honest with you and your friends. Learn to like ‘YOU’ for who you are. If you feel sad – be sad. If you’re happy – be happy. Let it out, express yourself, be honest with yourself and others – there is still a place for diplomacy !! – but stop trying to be someone you’re not. No-one has a perfect life. This doesn’t happen.

5. Avoid negative disempowering language – WHY? It makes you FEEL negative and negative people sap your energy. Turn everything you say into a positive. This is NOT about being cheesy or false. It’s about having fun and feeling good.

Q. Do any negative observations seriously help anyone (aside from constructive feedback)? If you make people feel good, they’ll want to do the same with you and spend time with you!!! This is dead powerful. Avoid words like I hate, or I don’t like – it makes you and others FEEL negative, e.g. “what I really like about Jon” vs “What I hate about him”, “What I really like about this” vs “What I really don’t like?”, “This could be good” vs “This is rubbish”.

The TOP 10 comebacks to “This is boring”!!

I wouldn’t recommend you say these things, BUT teachers always like something in their armoury.

These are some ideas I stole from a forum on the TES

“This is boring… !!”

1. “Yeah but, not as boring as detention…”
2. “Bored are you?  Let me check my ‘bovvered drawer’ (search in drawer) ‘nope, that’s empty”
3. “Good!”
4. “Maybe it is, but it needs to be finished by the end of the lesson so that you can go out to break.”
5. “Then make sure you learn it thoroughly…it’ll be even more boring if you have to revise it for a resit”!
6. “I didn’t realise you like me so much. Four lessons a week isn’t enough for you but hey, if you want to make it five during your lunch break, then I guess there’s not a lot I can do about it except be flattered”
7. “Nope…..YOU are bored. There’s a difference.”
8. “What is that hideous noise? … Oh it’s you.”
9. “I’m sure you’re trying to tell me something, but I’m not sure what.”
10. “What has 2 thumbs and doesn’t give a crap? (gestures at self with both thumbs and a smile !)

What has 2009 taught me?

The ONE and ONLY thing I have learnt in 2009 that has reinforced my belief and fervour in what I do…


Some teachers told me with ‘The Big Picture’ …

1. You’ll have nothing to talk about!!
2. You can’t charge schools money for what you do.
3. You’ll never work with more than a classroom of students at a time.

BUT, it’s funny because…

1. I’ve now got 5 different talks all lasting 2 hours including ‘The Big Picture’, ‘The Big Picture Pt II’, ‘The Big Leap & Pt II’ and also ‘The Bigger Picture’.
2. I do charge schools for what I do even though it started out being FREE.
3. I now work with up to 350 students at a time.

Then it got even better. They told me…

1. You won’t be able to make what you do long lasting.
2. You won’t get schools to ‘repeat buy’ what you do.
3. The students will soon get bored of what you do.


1. The material and learning we have goes throughout the whole year. We have PSHE material that develops students in the form of lesson plans and school assemblies that teachers use all year round.
2. Schools are not only ‘repeat buying’ but they’re also investing in multiple year groups all at once. They hire us for Year 7′s, 10′s and 11′s all at once and then follow up with Year 8′s, 9′s and 6th Formers. We have nearly 40 schools that have committed to multiple year groups this year alone; last year it was ZERO !!!
3. The students are following ‘The Big Picture’ in growing numbers. We now have nearly 1700 members of ‘The Big Picture Keith Warren’ and also have a new group formed (BUT NOT by me) it’s called the “Keith Warren has been to my school” !!!

So, what’s next in 2010 ?

* Target numbers of schools x 225
* More FREE teaching resources for schools
* Edit and publish the 3 books that I’ve written
* Run a Big Picture festival in Stockport with 100′s of students
* Develop the Facebook page to 7000 students!!
* Film inspirational advice for students about careers to go onto ‘YouTube’
* Load up inspirational films and quotes to help students get focused
* Personality profiling to help students learn more about themselves
* Managing Money – A program for students AND “How to make a $Million Quid?”

Their whole lives ahead of them

Students make some big and life-changing decisions, that they are at a very tender age to determine.

Dermot Gunn (a relative of a Deputy Headteacher I recently met) said

“Unfortunately, students have to make the biggest decision of their life when they’re least capable to do so…”

I stumbled across an article talking about American students’ views on higher education and their ability to complete their course of education. You can find it at

It made some interesting observations, specifically that 45% of the students in the USA worked longer than 20 hours per week whilst studying.

The study suggested that students leave school because the stress of work and study becomes too much as they put ‘themselves’ through school.

My interest though was focused on a couple of questions in the study…

The First Question

The question in the survey said “Did you always know that you were going to continue onto higher education?” This is essentially a question of their self belief…

  • 67% of those that eventually DID NOT graduate said “YES – they did always know”
  • 83% of those that DID eventually graduate said “YES – they did always know”.

This means that a significant percentage of students genuinely ‘believed’ that they could and would make it to the next level.

The Second Question

“My teacher in high school probably thought I would go onto higher education”

  • 68% of teachers said YES about those students that eventually DID not graduate.
  • 83% of teachers said YES about those students that DID go on to graduate.

The measurement is all about what they ‘probably thought’ and therefore it’s all about ‘belief’ and certainty that the student is going to do something…

You can NEVER prove that they will, or won’t, but to me the level of ‘belief’ is the biggest measure of anything…

Let’s face it, life is tough, it will require mammoth sacrifices and it is your level of belief that gets people to succeed.

I’ll make a small bet that the time that YOU achieved most in your life was not when you were necessarily rich or poor, it was just when you most wanted to !!

We can all find examples of the most fortunate students that did ‘make it’ and equally there are the examples of students who have ‘made it’, from seemingly nothing.

Henry Ford said:

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right”.

Life is all about desire and ambition and achieving your potential.

This is what we focus on with