TEACHING NOTES: Can we plan to motivate?

With Semester 2 commencing soon, it’s timely to think about what you have planned for your students’ learning and how you plan to keep them actively engaged in their learning. FLO rollovers are happening and we have had a series of articles on different strategies for keeping your students engaged to give you lots of ideas. One aspect not yet covered is that of student motivation and this is core to many of the questions the academic development team at CILT receive, and the basis of the recent series of articles Strategies for keeping students engaged in class. We are often asked ‘What can I do to get students to attend class?’, ‘How do I get them to put more effort into their work?’, ‘How do I get them engaged in their learning?’ The core of all of these questions falls back to motivation: the student’s desire or willingness to engage in their learning.

Students can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is driven internally, by emotions. So students will engage in behaviours for learning because it’s satisfying for them to do so. Extrinsically motivated students are driven by external rewards. These are often what we employ as teachers to get our students to engage (even if we wish they would all be intrinsically motivated because they just love our topic!). These rewards might be a good grade, public recognition of work (e.g. validation in class) or digital badges. A good curriculum design will take advantage of learning activities that support both kinds of motivation for students’ learning. The student engagement strategies we have discussed throughout this series will all support the intrinsic motivation of students. Our assessments, attendance requirements and other infrastructure aspects of curriculum support extrinsic motivation. So how do you plan for a good balance of these?

Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (2017) suggests that there are four major motivational conditions for adult learners, each with a specific criteria and purpose to help you find the right strategies to support your students to become and stay motivated to learn. This forms the basis of their Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching. This framework is helpful in planning for more sustained student learning by working both individually and all together to enhance intrinsic motivation to learn.

The table below illustrates those motivational conditions, some strategies and specific implementation ideas you might like to consider in planning your topic for Semester 2. A number of these ideas are taken from the previous series of articles to give you some further ideas about how they might be used.

Motivational condition Criteria Strategies Ideas
Establishing inclusion Respect and connectedness Routines and rituals Topic and class welcome; Acknowledgement of country; Establishing norms for group work
Relationships and collaboration Padlet as a way to get to know each other; Greet students by name (face-to-face and online)
Critical friends, peer coaching Peer instruction
Equitable participation Clear participation norms;

Occasional assessment of contribution

Developing a positive attitude Choice and relevance Personal goal setting Minute papers as a strategy for setting goals for students’ own learning prior to class
Use of prior knowledge to leverage learning Scaffold learning on students’ own narratives; One sentence summaries
References and resources from a range of backgrounds Examples and references from groups under-represented in HE
Shared ownership of knowing Think, Pair, Share activities
Connections to authentic contexts Work-integrated learning activities; Case studies; Applications cards
Assignments allowing for multiple modalities Essay; Video; Oral report
Enhancing meaning Challenge and engagement Critical and thought-provoking questioning techniques Teach students how to frame thought-provoking questions
  Inquiry-based learning and reflective practice Use templates for inquiry-based learning; Eportfolios for reflection
Authentic problem solving Use of real world issues / scenarios
Strategies to promote deeper meaning-making Case studies; Projects; Simulations
Engendering competence Effectiveness and authenticity Quick ways to assess prior knowledge Background Information Probe; Quick online quizzes; Word clouds
Authentic products Use learning activities so students can demonstrate authentic learning
Differentiated assessments Using data from multiple sources to assess students
Writing across the curriculum Explicit criteria and examples to promote competence
Rubrics clarifying criteria for excellence Use of marking criteria / rubrics made available to students prior to the assessment
Equitable and fair grading procedures Avoid cultural bias in assessment; Avoid scaling
Student voice / refection in assessment Peer assessment
Timely feedback that is specific and encouraging Using feedback that builds on student strengths as its able to be used

Adapted from Enhancing adult motivation to learn (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg 2017)

It is most effective to use this framework in developing your curriculum rather than relying on intuition and decisions made on-the-spot during teaching. If you are teaching online, this is especially problematic as you likely can’t ‘see’ your class to know how motivated they are. Planning for motivation reminds us what to do and when to do it and keeps both teachers and learners on the tasks at hand.


Wlodkowski, R & Ginsberg, M 2017, Enhancing adult motivation to learn, 4th edn, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Written by Cassandra Hood

Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

Posted in
Teaching Notes

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