Increasing Student Motivation & Participation

Instructors have control over the learning environment, the course materials, teaching strategies, learning activities, and assessments. The way these are designed and aligned influence student motivation, which in turn impacts student learning.

Considerations for Motivating Students to Engage in Learning

Students are more motivated to engage with learning material and will participate in class when:

  • They see value in course material, learning outcomes, and activities that they can relate to their own lives.
  • The course objectives or learning outcomes align with students' interests and goals (academic, career, and social).
  • Learning activities provide opportunities to attain learning outcomes.
  • Assessments are fair and assess what they intend to.
  • Students are given choices.
  • Students experience the learning environment as supportive.
  • Students experience success in course activities and assignments.
  • Students know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Getting Started with Increasing Student Motivation & Participation

  • Provide clear course learning outcomes and reinforce what students will gain from attaining them.
  • Create a positive classroom environment by learning about your students. Use  icebreakers to build rapport with students, learn their names, and learn about what they are hoping to get out of the course and what preparation and background knowledge they have.
  • Attempt to align course activities to students’ goals. Explain these connections to students.
  • Communicate how to be successful in the course both in the syllabus and repeatedly throughout the semester.
  • Give students regular feedback on their progress and help them learn how to assess their own work and progress.
  • Discuss the definition of participation and put it in the syllabus. What does it mean to participate in your course?
  • Let students know what is expected of them. Do students need to read material before class in order to discuss it? Are you taking attendance? If you are incorporating activities in class, how should students participate?
  • Articulate ground rules  for participation and discussion.
  • Use variety in the way you structure your classroom or learning activities.
  • Incorporate  active learning activities or change things up every 15-20 minutes to draw attention to issues and content you feel are most critical.
  • Set aside time before and after each activity to introduce it and define the takeaways.
  • When possible, provide rubrics, especially if you are grading students on participation.
  • Offer choices with assignments and assessments when possible. Allow students to choose how to demonstrate their knowledge or provide a range of topics from which students can explore.
  • Be conscious of students’ confidence levels. Provide small opportunities for success early. Be constructive and encouraging when providing feedback.