I have seen far too many people that just cannot or are unwilling to learn due to the subject being rather uninteresting or boring. They tend not to want to learn things they don't understand because it requires effort and dedication.

For example, people wanted me to teach them how to create robots, android apps, games, etc. but when it came to programming and using database, no one really wanted to pay attention or cared about it, and what was worse, they complained about how difficult the assignment was even it was just creating a simple calculator program. I gave them tools to solve the problem. They had everything needed to create the program on their own without hand-holding but it seems like it just wouldn't happen.

Is this due to a lack of experience in teaching based on the method used or is this the student's fault for not even trying to learn? If this looks like a problem with the method of teaching, how should I improve or inspire learning?

  • 3
    I think in the tech world it's definitely a misconception on how things are done. They don't understand it's not just a magic fairy wand wave and more sweat and tears (possibly lots of tears) that makes those really neat apps and toys that they like to play with. They possibly haven't been taught proper problem solving and how to apply it to real world situations and/or coding. Jul 14, 2016 at 16:33
  • I would suggest that "robots, android apps, games, etc" are ends which are aimed for/desired, while programming and databases are means to those ends (therefore are less easy to get excited about!).
    – kwah
    Jul 15, 2016 at 23:29

4 Answers 4


In my opinion, you shouldn't ever try to spend time educating someone without ensuring that the person actually wants to be educated. There's a difference between, say, "wanting to be a programmer" and "wanting to learn how to program". You could ascribe the first sentence to literally anybody. Who doesn't want a free skill? It's only the people who also fit the second description that you should educate.

The difficulty is that people usually don't know the difference between those two things. I often don't know it: I once decided I wanted to learn how to play the keyboard. Picked one up, played a few tunes, but could never find myself interested in sitting there for hours and playing the same tune over and over until I had mastered it. Turns out, I didn't really want to learn how to play the keyboard: I only wanted to play it.

So, it's up to the educator to help decide whether the person really wants to learn it. There are a few ways to do it. First of all, be honest: don't advertise your education with what the students will learn, but how they'll learn it. Because that's actually what they'll be doing. So when people want you to learn them to teach games, tell them from the get-go what they'll be doing, how terse and repetitive and basic it can be. But then, during the education, ensure that the end goal is always in sight. So if you're teaching somebody to make a game, instead of them applying their skills solving some math problem ("compute the nth prime with property y", e.g.), why not give them a piece of code from an actual game, and have them solve a small, intermediary step - and then show them the result, the before and after effect of their contribution?


1) Students should come to you for how you'll teach them, not for what you'll teach them,

2) During the study, always keep the end goal in sight. Don't let them drown in repetitive theoretic stuff ... let them .... swim in it, I guess, always taking in fresh air whenever they need it.


I would say the particular details of this question is a bit vague and hard to assess. Because we will have a hard time knowing/understanding the actual details of some of your statements. (For example exactly how difficult the actual assignment was, what prior knowledge did the students have etc.)

However getting to the actual question: How can you be more inspiring to people learning what they don't understand.

In my opinion there is one major thing that you can recognize in any good teacher that I have had during my studying, both in mandatory school and later in university aswell.

  • As a teacher/lecturer, there is a difference between an interest in your study, and the interest to teach others.

The best teachers I have had always have had one thing in common. They LOVED their subject so much, that they really BURNED for others to realize the beauty in it aswell. As a student, there is such a difference getting an half-assed answer to a question from a lecturer just wanting to get out of there and 'do something important' instead to a lecturer that really takes his/hers time and explains stuff thoroughly to you.

Furthermore, trying to answer a bit of those later examples (as I personally have encountered situations where the teachers expectations clearly was out of reach for us students). I hope that you have some kind of evaluation of your course, why did they find the assignments hard? Were they unprepared? Did you assume them to have some basic knowledge they did not have? It has happened to me , where a teacher assumed us to have a lot of knowledge in programming while we only had taken an introductory course. That teacher was flexible though and added extra lectures in those subject what we had to know and that course turned out rather good in the end.

Still, at the end of the day, you can't magically change people into wanting to learn. You can make your best effort in that your teaching will be fun and inspiring, but at the end of the day, the willingness to learn has to come from the pupil.


First I would like to state that I do not have decades long experience in teaching other people, but I have decade long experience in making myself learn something.

This is what I often do to help myself stay focused: I read books "from back to front". Not literally, but what I mean is that I first look up what I really want to learn and then go back to study (sometimes not that interesting) things I need to understand to learn the the part I looked up before. This really sets a big sign in my head: you go through this to be able to do that later. And it helps.

I am a mathematician but let me try to propose a possible implementation: you said the students want to make apps/games but don't want to learn databases. Assuming they have some basics in some programing language (e.g. Python) you can tell them that you will explain them how to do one part of a game - inventory. You can ask them how to implement an inventory for a game and push the idea toward databases, gradually going from the example of game inventory to the abstract database stuff. In the end you can give them an assignment to make something like game inventory.

I am not really sure if my example makes 100% sense as I am not that good programmer (database for inventory is probably an overkill), but I hope I made a point.


I think Jin5's answer is quite good, however, I do think one of our responsibilities is to do our best to motivate our students. That said, not all students want to be motivated.

Many people would like to speak a foreign language, but they want to skip the boring work of learning vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. It's the same with programming. Students must learn the components before they become masters.

I agree with others here that the passion you feel for the subject will have a motivational impact on the students. I remember one student at her graduation come up to me and said she changed her field of work from her original major to something completely different. I asked why. She responded, "Because of that one class I took from you. You were so inspiring about it that I really saw how important it was and I really fell in love with that subject."

I never really thought I felt anything special about that subject. However, I have always thought it was really important and that came through in a way that has motivated more than one of my students to end up focusing on that area.

In short, show them how what they want (making robots, etc.) includes many areas, including database work. With luck, they will see how databases are just one more building block they can use to build their own masterpiece.

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