Motivating your students

How can you motivate your students?  Meet Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia (Psychology and Neuroscience and Education), who studies students’ academic motivation (including perceptions of academic competence and reasons for engaging in schooling). Her work focuses on how student motivation relates to academic engagement and achievement and how classroom contexts can promote effective motivation.

What does she do in her course to promote appropriate motivation?

Here’s what she told me:
  • minimize social comparisons
    for example, students do not see the high, low or average grades on assignments
  • encourage all students to participate and provide varied ways for students to be actively involved
  • create clear grading standards based on students’ understanding, and communicate them to students
  • no grading on a curve; rather grades are based on levels of understanding (criterion-referenced)
  • attribute student success and failure to effort and strategy use, not to ability
    in other words, if a student does not do well on an assignment, help the student to see that he or she can improve on the next assignment by trying different study strategies
She shared an acronym for course design for encouraging motivation to learn material:  TARGET
    Tasks use varied and open-ended activities/assignments (not easily compared between students)
 that are meaningful, with real world connections
    Autonomy/authority provide students with choices on assignments; allow students to select their own topics and work independently in small groups
    Recognition respond to student work, but comment on the comment, not the person
    Grouping use heterogeneous groups
    Evaluation do not grade on a curve; rather, use criterion based grading
    Time allow flexibility in the flow of instruction – students can take the time they need to master the material

Consider how focusing on student motivation could impact your course design and your students’ learning.