Teaching and Learning Resources

Motivation, Student

Motivation can be defined as a student’s desire to participate in the learning process. It is related to the reasons and goals that inspire student involvement or non-involvement in academic activities. Although students may be equally motivated to perform a task, the sources of their motivation may differ. A student who is intrinsically motivated undertakes an activity “for its own sake, for the enjoyment it provides, the learning it permits, or the feelings of accomplishment it evokes” (Lepper, l988). An extrinsically motivated student performs “in order to obtain some reward external to the activity itself,” such as grades (Lepper, 1988).

Many students are self-motivated and enthusiastic about learning, but some need or expect their instructor to inspire, challenge, and stimulate them. Most students do respond positively to a well-organized course taught by an enthusiastic instructor who has a genuine interest in students and their learning.

There are a number of teaching strategies that enhance student motivation and inspire learning. Here are a few suggestions from Barbara Gross Davis’ Tools for Teaching (1993) to encourage students to become self-motivated, more independent learners:

  • Give frequent, early, positive feedback that supports students' beliefs that they can do well.
  • Ensure opportunities for student success by assigning tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult.
  • Help students find personal meaning and value in the material.
  • Create an atmosphere that is open and positive.
  • Help students feel that they are valued members of a learning community.

Related Resources

Motivating Students offers valuable strategies and practical tools for motivating.

University of Oregon Teaching Effectiveness program answers many questions related to motivating students such as how to motivate students to prepare for class and motivate interest in the subject matter.
Teaching Strategies: Motivating Students discusses research findings on student motivation and techniques for motivating students.
Suinicki, Marilla D. Learning and Motivation in the Postsecondary Classroom Boston: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2004
Available in the CLL library, Mills Library, 504. Call number: LG080