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Teaching/Learning Center

About Motivation

Motivation in the Classroom

There are two types of motivation:

  • Intrinsic* - internal factors that motivate like a student's curiosity
  • Extrinsic** - external factors that motivate like receiving grades

Success = Intrinsic Motivation + Extrinsic Motivation


Top Tips for Creating Intrinsic Motivation


  1. Give assignments real-world applicabilityif students can see the value of a task beyond the classroom, it can help to increase intrinsic motivation
  2. Provide opportunities for students to collaborate with each other (peer-to-peer interaction); this can be in the form of group work, peer critiques/feedback, or presentations
  3. Allow students to select learning content; have them find examples or research that can be shared with the rest of the class; consider letting students writing some of their own assignments 

Two Theories For Motivating Students


Malone (1981)


  • Challenge - create coursework with levels of completion individualized and adjustable to different students (example as an assignment with two options to complete, a baseline option and more challenging option)
  • Curiosity - encourage the learner to seek out new information to resolve problems
  • Control - construct tasks that require student input, offers a choice for completion and gives students the power over how it will look at the end
  • Fantasy - task requires the student to envision a situation where they can use this knowledge outside of class (real-world applicability)

Keller (1988)


  • ATTENTION - capture a students interest in course content by presenting materials that is new, exciting, different, or contradictory 
  • RELEVANCE - present content and tasks that highlight the usefulness of the information
  • CONFIDENCE - each task should have clear expectations and offer students reasonable opportunities for success (in other words, don't make the task too hard that no one can really do it well)
  • SATISFACTION - tasks encourage students to apply knowledge in real and useful ways (real-world applicability)


Remember: A task in your class may fit into some of the criteria above, however, it may not be obvious to your students. It never hurts to take a moment and explain "why" you are asking students to do something. 

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