Strategies to Motivate One to Learn

Having been a teacher for almost 2 decades, one of my greatest delights is to see my students growing up to become lifelong learner. This cannot happen unless they’re motivated to learn.

The trait of motivation to learn is an enduring disposition to strive for content knowledge and skill mastery in learning situations.  The state of motivation to learn exists when learner engagement in a particular activity is guided by the intention of acquiring the knowledge or mastering the skill that the activity is designed to teach.

A learner’s motivation to learn is stimulated most directly through modeling, communication of expectations, and direct instruction or socialization by significant others.  As teachers, we are active socialization agents capable of stimulating the general development of learner’s motivation to learn and it’s activation in particular situations.  

People do not invest effort on tasks that do not lead to values outcomes even if they know they can perform the tasks successfully, and they do not invest effort on even highly valued tasks if they are convinced that they cannot succeed no matter how hard they try.  I find this articles very helpful for classroom teachers, and in fact, most relevant for trainers/facilitators coaching adult learning.

The following sharing is adapted from Synthesis of Research on Strategies for Motivating Students to Learn, written by Jere Brophy in 1992. 

Essential Preconditions

  1. Supportive environment – Encouragement, Patiently supporting learners’ learning efforts, Allowing learners to feel comfortable taking intellectual risks without fear of being criticized for making mistakes
  2. Appropriate level of challenge/ difficulty – learners will be bored if the tasks are too easy and frustrated if tasks are too difficult
  3. Meaningful learning objectives
  4. Moderation/ optimal use – noted that any particular strategy can loses its effectiveness if it is used too often or too routinely

Motivating by Maintaining Success Expectations

  1. Program for success – make sure learners achieve consistently
  2. Teach goal setting, performance appraisal and self reinforcement – SMART goals
  3. Recognize the link between effort and outcome
  4. Provide remedial socialization – teachers/trainers can shape the way learners view their performance

Motivating by Supplying Extrinsic Incentives

  1. Offer rewards for good (or improved) performance 
  2. Structure appropriate competition 
  3. Call attention to the instrumental value of academic actvitities – extrinsic motivational strategies are effective under certain circumstances but teachers/ trainers should not rely on them. When learners are preoccupied with rewards/ competition, they may not attend to or appreciate the value of what they are learning 

Motivating by Captilizaing on Learners’ Instrinsic Motivation

  1. Adapt tasks to learners’ interest
  2. Include novelty/ variety elements
  3. Allow choices or autonomous decisions
  4. Provide opportunities for learners to respond actively
  5. Provide immediate feedback to learner responses
  6. Allow learners to create finished products
  7. Include fantasy or stimulation elements 
  8. Incorporate game-like features into exercises
  9. Include higher-level objectives and divergent questions
  10. Provide opportunities to interact with peers – plan follow up activities that permit learners to work together in pairs or small groups to tutor one another, discuss issues, or develop suggested solutions to problems, or to work as a team preparing for a competition, participation in a stimulation game, or producing some group product

Stimulating Learner Motivation to Learn

  1. Model interest in learning and motivation to learn
  2. Communicate desirable expectations and attributions about learners’ motivation to learn
  3. Minimize learners’ performance anxiety during learning activities – structure most activities to promote learning rather than to evaluate performance
  4. Project intensity – useful when introducing new content, demonstrating skills, or giving instructions for assignments
  5. Project enthusiasm
  6. Induce tsk interest or appreciation 
  7. Induce curiosity or suspense
  8. Induce dissonance or cognitive conflict 
  9. Make abstract content more personal, concrete or familiar 
  10. Induce learners to generate their own motivation to learn
  11. State learning objectives and provide advance organizers
  12. Model task-related thinking and problem  solving 


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