Student Motivation

Guideline:  Create an environment that fosters student motivation.

Researchers interested in basic questions about how and why some students seem to learn and thrive in school contexts, while other students seem to struggle to develop the knowledge and cognitive resources to be successful academically, must consider the role of motivation.

We can state instructional design principles like those in Table 2 [of citation below] that reflect reasonable generalizations about student motivation in terms of increasing adaptive student motivation such as efficacy, control, interest, values, and goals. These design principles actually overlap with many of the design principles generated by cognitive researchers, again demonstrating the utility of considering both motivation and cognition simultaneously.

Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(4), 667.

In Self-Determination Theory we distinguish between different types of motivation based on the different reasons or goals that give rise to an action. The most basic distinction is between intrinsic motivation, which refers to doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable, and extrinsic motivation, which refers to doing something because it leads to a separable outcome. Over three decades of research has shown that the quality of experience and performance can be very different when one is behaving for intrinsic versus extrinsic reasons.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary educational psychology, 25(1), 54-67. doi:

Research suggests that teachers can often strengthen struggling learners’ self-efficacy by linking new work to recent successes, teaching needed learning strategies, reinforcing effort and persistence, stressing peer modeling, teaching struggling learners to make facilitative attributions, and helping them identify or create personally important goals.

Margolis, H., & McCabe, P. P. (2004). Self-efficacy: A key to improving the motivation of struggling learners. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 77(6), 241-249. doi:10.3200/TCHS.77.6.241-249


Additional References

Eccles, J. S., Wigfield, A., & Schiefele, U. (1998). Motivation to succeed. In W. E. Damon, Nancy (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol. Vol 3). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Freeman, T. M., Anderman, L. H., & Jensen, J. M. (2007). Sense of belonging in college freshmen at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 203-220. 

Reeve, J., & Jang, H. (2006). What teachers say and do to support students' autonomy during a learning activity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 209.

Schunk, D. H. (1991). Self-efficacy and academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26, 207-231.

Tobias, S., “Interest, prior knowledge and learning”, Review of Educational Research, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 37-54 (1994).


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