Motivation: Engaging Learners

Motivation and Engaging Learners

"How we teach our students [is] as important as what we teach our students."4

Expectancy Value Theory suggests that students will be more motivated to learn if they are confident they can be successful and see value in the learning process and outcomes. When faced with a learning situation, students often ask themselves, "Will I be successful?" and "Is it worth the effort?"6 Knowing this, instructors can engage and motivate learners by facilitating success and making learning relevant.

To facilitate students' success and instill confidence that they can master learning outcomes, instructors should make sure they are organized in their course design and communicate expectations early and clearly.3 Creating opportunities for student to experience early successes, and then revisiting those successes when learning becomes difficult, can keep learners striving for excellence. Lastly, teach students the skills they need to be independent learners and provide them with constructive feedback early and often.1

To help students see the value in what they are learning, faculty should make lessons relevant to students real-world experiences and daily lives. Find examples students can relate to, make use of students' interests and backgrounds 1 and give students choices and options to direct their own learning or identify alternative ways to demonstrate their learning. Creating assignments that are appropriately challenging; tasks that are too difficult or too easy will not seem "worth it" to students and will hinder their motivation.3 Finally, show enthuisiasm for your students and the content; your energy and excitement will likely be infectious to even reluctant learners.2


1. Capturing and Directing the Motivation to Learn, This PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view. Speaking of Teaching, Stanford University newsletter

2. Displayed a Personal Interest in Students and Their Learning, article addresses why this teaching method matters and how to apply it in a classroom and online, Theall, Bruff, & Gross (eds.), POD-IDEA Notes on Instruction

3. How Do I Motivate My Students? Mekiva Callahan, Teaching Resources, Texas Tech University.

4. Learner-Centered Instruction Promotes Student Success, The Journal. In this artile, Northface University is used as an example of how project-based learning and other learner-centered instruction has helped students succeed. The article describes multiple forms of project-based and learner-centered types of instruction.

5. Motivating Students, article focused on guiding students to read and think critically, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of California, Berkeley

6. Motivation: An Updated Analysis, Marilla D. Svinicki, Idea Paper #59, The Idea Center.

7. Motivating Students Through Project-Based Service Learning, The Journal. This article uses California schools as examples to show how project-based learning has motivated students.

8. Student Goal Orientation, Motivation, and Learning, Marilla D. Svinicki, Idea Paper 41, The Idea Center

9. Twenty Tips on Motivating Students, University of Nebraska-Lincoln