Student Motivation



Students are more likely to engage in learning when they

  • see value in what they’re learning
  • believe that engaging in specific actions will bring about a desired outcome
  • believe they can be successful
  • perceive that the environment is supportive

To help motivate students . . .

Structure your course and each class to help students know what to expect

  • Use the syllabus to clarify what the student will learn, your expectations, and how the course will be conducted
  • At the beginning of class, explain the focus of the class and what they should be able to know and do by the end
  • Align what happens with this initial framing of the class
  • Close the class with a summary; provide opportunities for students to summarize by asking them to:
    • Respond to clicker questions that gauge what they learned in class
    • Draw a concept map of what they learned
    • Write a one minute paper about what they have learned
  • Prepare students for future classes and other learning opportunities.

Provide learning experiences where students feel they can be successful

  • Set challenging but attainable goals and assignments (success within reach)

  • Especially early in the course, help students experience success; for example, incorporate early, shorter assignments that account for a small percentage of their final grade

  • Encourage student choice in how to  achieve a particular assignment or learning outcome

  • Let students know that you believe they can be successful – that you have set high expectations and you are confident they have what it takes to meet them.

Include opportunities for students (and you!) to gain information on how they are doing

  • Diagnose students' understanding as they enter class (e.g., begin class with an informal poll or diagnostic question, or post it the night before)
  • Provide rubrics for assignments and give feedback based on them
  • Provide timely and targeted feedback about how students are progressing [link to clickers (using effectively; formative assessment/CATS]
  • Incorporate Clicker questions or other in-class assessments designed to identify what students know or don’t know.
  • Take advantage of course analytics (e.g., through your Learning Management System (LMS)).
  • Guide students to use the feedback they are getting  from in-class activities, checks for understanding, class discussion, out-of-class homework and other activities
  • Acknowledge  specific areas where students are doing well  and identify a few specific ways that improvement might occur; focus the latter so student has key actions for improvement that are achievable

Foster application/connection of what students are learning to their own lives

  • Design learning experiences that are relevant to students' lives  
  • Craft activities that encourage application of content  to situations they will likely encounter

Create a positive climate/community for learning where students feel supported

  • Get to know your students. Learn students’ names and create relationships with them a few at a time (e.g., feature students of the day, or invite the class to meet with you in their small groups)
  • Craft specific opportunities for individual students to participate in the learning experience (e.g., feature students’ work in front of the class, arrange for volunteers to come to the board or lead out in discussion).  [government example re: two students relevance of newsfeed;
  • Promote social exchanges for learning among peers.  Class interaction is more lively when the conversation broadens beyond just alternating between you and one person in the class. [see ideas for peer learning under discussions]
  • Let students know how they can link with each other (e.g.,, Piazza, Peerwise, Discussion Boards in Canvas, etc.).
  • Make explicit that you (and TAs, etc.) are interested in their success, are available to support them, and have provided or pointed them to ample ways for them to get the help they need