Early Years (FD) and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email s.smith@worc.ac.uk 


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations.

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses.

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed.

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed.

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately.

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation:

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

Learning Support (FD) and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Education Studies and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

History and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

 

Manufacturing Management (FD) and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

 


Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

 

International Foundation Diploma and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


Capitalise on the Student’s Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High But Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

General Business and Management and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

 


Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

 

Psychology and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

 

Case Study


 

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

 


Case Study

The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=6 (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

A student with dyslexia has fairly straightforward support needs, but finds it difficult to get academic staff to take her requests seriously. Paradoxically, her success at studying has led some psychology and disability support staff to question her need for accommodations.

 

Sociology and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk 


Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

 

Case Study – Psychology and Motivation

The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=6 (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

 
Jennifer was diagnosed with dyslexia at the end of her first year of studying for a psychology degree. It has an impact on her ability to read journal articles and other text, do statistics, read, and take down numbers from slides. Despite these difficulties she’s just started a PhD in psychology, having obtained an excellent undergraduate degree through extremely hard work and determination: “Little did they know that I worked up until 3-4 in the morning on many occasions, as it would sometimes take me ages to read through some of the journals I was using”. However, additional understanding and support from academic and support staff could have made the process much less stressful.
 
She found that, while some lecturers wanted to do everything for her when she revealed that she had dyslexia, others thought it meant she was unable to do statistics or needed a great deal of extra support. However, in many cases all that was required was something relatively minor – for example, to have information on a handout so that she wouldn’t be required to take down material from a slide. Unfortunately, with some academic staff this requirement just didn’t seem to sink in, meaning that Jennifer would have to keep repeating her request, which was quite embarrassing in front of the rest of the class.
 
Although she passed the statistics module, Jennifer had great difficulty with the subject area. “The only way I got through it was by going back to basics in terms of having to work out equations by hand – it was the only way I was going to grasp the concepts, and I had to pay for extra tuition as the amount of time allotted for statistics wasn’t enough,” she explains. Whilst her department made some attempt to assist all students with statistical difficulties, putting on extra statistics classes for students with dyslexia, the person who took these was not very approachable and appeared to just run through the same notes used in lectures, thereby undercutting what potentially could have been a useful support mechanism.
 
Alternative exam arrangements have been made for Jennifer, such as extra time, and a separate room. However, recently the disability unit has not been so helpful, with one staff member commenting that she couldn’t see why Jennifer would want a top-up assessment, given that she had managed to get a first in her undergraduate degree.
 
There was also a breakdown of communication between the disability unit and lecturing staff, with one lecturer not knowing that alternative exam arrangements had been made for Jennifer and other disabled students in her class. Rather than waiting for the students to return to the lecture hall after their in-class assessment, he started the second part of the lecture and publicly reprimanded Jennifer for being late, which caused her much embarrassment.
 
Jennifer states: “It did surprise me that there were a few psychology lecturers who didn’t seem to have any understanding of dyslexia. Thankfully the majority of the department had an understanding, but those few who are not can make things very difficult for someone like myself”.
 

Case Study – Geography and Motivation

The following case study was taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , (information extracted and accessed September 2006).

 

Gareth is a level three student studying Landscape Architecture. Gareth has a specific learning difficulty, dyslexia. Gareth ‘s dyslexia was first assessed 3 months prior to his ‘A’ Levels.

Gareth states that his dyslexia was not a factor in deciding which University to attend. He does, however, believe that people with dyslexia have different strengths and weaknesses, and as such, one of his strengths lies in artistic drawing and planning holistic projects. He believes that his strengths in these areas were an influencing factor in his choice of which course to study. At the time of his decision to study Landscape Architecture, however, Gareth was unaware of his specific learning difficulty.

Gareth is quite clear that he prefers writing assignments to taking timed examinations. He feels that even with additional time he is rushing in exams and does not do himself justice. Gareth finds that without the time to think clearly about the subject, his work is not articulate and his handwriting becomes illegible. Gareth finds that rather than spend time re-reading his answers, “it’s better to just go with it”, as he feels re-reading would waste time that he could be using trying to answer the next question.

Despite his preference for written assignments, Gareth admits he’s “terrible at time management”. He often procrastinates and sometimes finds it necessary to work through the night to finish a piece of work on time. He does understand that as a student with dyslexia, he puts more effort into his studies than his peers, and he believes that was the reason his dyslexia remained unidentified for as long as it did. He didn’t realise he was putting more effort into his studies; “it’s just the way that it is”.

Gareth’s course involves a range of assessment methods; essays, exams, reports, computer-aided design work, freehand design, etc. Gareth feels that his best skills are his artistic abilities; “I’ve written fair enough essays, but it’s not what I’m good at”. Gareth is particularly grateful that his major project for level three was not a dissertation, but a design project. Gareth feels that he was better able to evidence his academic ability by working through an entire design project. He recognises that the design project included a high amount of hours for the complicated drawings, but as this is his strength, he finds this aspect of the course motivating. He finds that he uses visual cues to spark ideas for projects. He gets less attached to essays, being relieved when they are completed, rather than enjoying the process as he does with design pieces.

Gareth finds that when he is prioritising his workload, he tends to complete the design work first, leaving the written assignments to last. Whilst Gareth sometimes re-writes his assignments 3 or 4 times, he still makes punctuation and grammar errors. He finds it disheartening when comments on the assignment focus on these. He understands why they are included, but as he is already aware of his difficulties, but sometimes finds this discouraging.

Gareth does not feel that his dyslexia has any impact upon his field trips.

In lectures, Gareth takes sporadic notes to try and help him reinforce what is being said at the time. He rarely returns to study his notes later, and although he has a dictaphone, he only uses it on occasions when he knows there will be significant material he will need to remember (e.g., when there is a guest speaker) as he feels it is highly unlikely he would listen to the lecture again. Gareth tends to get most of the information he needs for essays from his textbooks. He finds the funding he receives from his Disabled Students’ Allowance allows him to maintain a good collection of the texts he needs.

Gareth finds that the support most useful to him comes from academic staff. He sometimes needs motivating to do the written pieces of his course, but finds staff who are more flexible in their approach, encouraging him rather than reprimanding him for not doing the work, are more effective. Gareth feels that the right motivation at the right time can be the most beneficial support offered.

 

 

Reflection / Self-Assessment

Reflecting on experiences and practices is a crucial part of learning. It is not just about learning from mistakes, but also by being self-aware. By making reasoned judgements about personal strengths and weaknesses, students can target their development. This is also a vital career management skill, allowing students to become effective decision makers.

Reflection and self-assessment skills are demonstrated by:

  • the active and creative seeking of knowledge for problem solving
  • viewing learning as a matter of personal development by acquiring, developing and applying skills and attributes, and
  • offering answers as personal judgements that have relevance beyond academic study and yet are open to revision.

As much information as possible should be accessible to students, regarding any form of assessment, preferably before they enter into a course so that they can make informed choices as to the compatibility of their own learning goals and capabilities and their chosen degree programme. In addition to providing this information, it is important that all forms of assessment of student learning are underpinned by sound pedagogical principles. It is stated that one of the goals of Higher Education is to support students in becoming autonomous, independent learners able to engage in deep learning and take responsibility for setting and attaining their own learning goals. Students can be helped to achieve that goal by being given adequate information about assessment.

Recognise the Need for Promotion of the Profession

For those disciplines that are concerned with the achievement of professional status at the end of the programme of study (e.g. Nursing, Physiotherapy, Veterinary Science, Social Work, etc.) the development of a commitment towards continuing professional development and recognising the need for it is vital for students both in achieving professional status and gaining employment and career progression. It is therefore important that students recognise the value and importance of this early on in the course.

Biosciences and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn. Information taken from Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis; Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1993 http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/motivate.html 

Computing and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

English and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


 

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Geography and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Case Study


Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

 


Case Study

The following case study was taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/caseintro.htm (information extracted and accessed September 2006).

 

A third year student feels he puts more effort into his studies than his peers and believes this was the reason why his dyslexia remained unidentified for so long. 

 

Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.


This link contains details of an initiative put into place at Birmingham University to encourage students to monitor and provide feedback on their personal progress.

Music and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Nursing and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Physiotherapy and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Social Work and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Veterinary Science and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email hz.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Motivation

For further information on motivation, please see the following external links and references:

If you would like to recommend any links to be added to this page please email s.smith@worc.ac.uk 

 

Geraniou, E. and Tall, D. Motivation: Is the Student Expected to Have it or Should it be Provided? University of Warwick http://www.warwick.ac.uk/staff/David.Tall/pdfs/dot2004z-geraniou-pme.pdf

Muller, F.H. and Louw, J. (2003) Conditions of university students’ motivation and study interest. In: European Conference of Educational Research, University of Hamburg, Germany, 17-20 September 2003. Education On-Line, 2004 http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003572.htm

 

Case Study – Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research and Motivation

Source: Cox, B. and Bidgood, P. Widening Participation in Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research.

Workbooks at the University of Birmingham

Birmingham was commended in the Subject Review for the match of its curriculum to the student intake and for careful remedial and bridging arrangements. One key element of this is the use of workbooks in which students record their solutions to weekly worksheets. These are used in a core module that accounts for one third of the first year. The workbooks are regularly inspected and marked. They encourage an ethos of continual work and feedback, and provide opportunities for students to consolidate their basic skills. The reviewers were impressed with the way in which such a simple device structures the tutorials and exercise classes. At the end of the year they have a summary of their work for the year and this helps in revision and examination preparation. The workbooks also integrate with the personal and pastoral support of students, promoting greater personal attention. The students also gain practice in writing about mathematics through the workbooks.

A second area of good practice in first year support is the use of careful web-based diagnostic testing and feedback. Initially this used Question Mark Perception, but now formative assessment using AIM is used to assist students in consolidating their skills. The computer algebra engine behind AIM allows for repeated testing and feedback on questions with randomly generated parameters. This seems to be a particularly effective media for modern students, who are now used to engagement over the web – a more familiar environment than, for example, hand-held calculators. A by-product of this facility is the wealth of narrative feedback provide by students on all aspects of the course.

In addition to these support mechanisms an extra sub-module of support for the students recruited through widening participation initiatives has enabled Birmingham to broaden the qualifications it accepts without a reduction in standards or an increase in attrition rates.