There are many, many theories about what motivates people (see, for example, this overview of contemporary theories, or this shorter summary). But for most instructors, there are a few key aspects of motivation that are most relevant for reaching our students. Specifically, students are most motivated when they:
- see the value in what they are being asked to do;
- expect to be successful; and
- feel supported in their endeavor.
Thus, instructors who want to motivate their students should focus on strategies to:
- increase/communicate the value of what you are asking students to do;
- clarify your expectations and provide guidance on how students can be successful;
- give timely feedback and create a supportive environment for learning
The resources below provide additional information about motivation with many suggestions for specific strategies that address these three areas:
- The SERC module on Student motivations and attitudes provides an overview of themes for instructors related to motivating students, drawn from the educational literature
- The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt discusses intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and provides several strategies for motivating students to learn
- UT Austin’s Faculty Innovation Center also provides a wide range of concrete strategies, as does the chapter on motivating students in Barbara Gross Davis’ Tools for Teaching.
- One way to ensure you are clearly communicating value, expectations and criteria for success is to follow the template for transparent assignments developed by the Transparency in Learning and Teaching project at UNLV
- Faculty Focus has compiled several posts on this topic into one free report, “11 Strategies for Getting Students to Read What’s Assigned“
- In “First-Day Questions for the Learner-Centered Classroom“, Gary A. Smith suggests an activity that can increase student buy-in from Day One by getting them to think about the value to them of the work you are asking them to do
- The CTL’s page on formative assessment provides additional resources related to giving feedback while the page on inclusive pedagogy has additional suggestions for ensuring you are creating a supportive environment