Tips for motivating your students and yourself as a college teacher

by Ah Ram Lee
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Ah Ram Lee

Ah Ram Lee

Motivation is one of the fundamental and critical basis in teaching. Most of the practical teaching tactics that encourage learning would not likely work without motivation. Lack of motivation can be lead to academic discipline problems. In other words, almost all the worries that teachers have can be resolved if students are motivated.

There are two types of motivation that we need to be aware of —  intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is closer to core value of learning, and extrinsic motivation is often related to more external factors.

Students who have intrinsic motivations enjoy learning itself and are aware of the value of learning. They are also interested in achieving mastery in a goal, which is developing competence by gaining knowledge and skills.

Students who are extrinsically motivated are more interested in demonstrating their knowledge to earn a good grade for future benefit or because they desire for approval and other kinds of rewards. Extrinsic motivations have been widely used not only in education but also industrial fields to boost performance and increase profits. However, it has been proven that extrinsic motivation does not work as expected by numerous research studies.

This video clip will show some examples —

This does not mean that extrinsic motivation is not important in structuring learning. The important thing is to use both in a wise and appropriate way.

There are many theories about motivation that provide explanations of human behavioral changes and have implications for teachers. These three below are well-known motivations theories that are often used and referred to.

Self-Efficacy Theory – Albert Bandura (1977)

“People do things that they think they can do.”

Self-Efficacy: the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations

  • Mastery Experience
  • Vicarious Experience
  • Verbal or Social Persuasion
  • Somatic and Emotional State

Expectancy-Value Theory

Students’ behaviors will be driven by reasonable possibility of success and value of the work/activities.

“If I work hard on this will I succeed?” + “Will the outcome of this task be rewarding for me?”

Attribution Theory: How the individual’s explanations, justifications, and excuses about self or others influence motivation.

– Most of the attributed causes for successes or failures can be characterized in terms of 3 dimensions:

  1. locus of the cause – internal or external
  2. stability – whether the cause is likely to stay the same or can change
  3. controllability – whether the person can control the cause

Based on important concepts and theories, here are some practical suggestions to motivate students. Classroom environment and instructional practices can foster certain types of motivation.

– Give sense of autonomy and self-determination (control) by offering choices (paper topics, test questions, due dates, reading assignments, etc.) with guidance within the course framework.

  • Encourage, expect and emphasize the value of learning (e.g. explaining the relevance of what you are teaching to your future success is important)
  • Move students from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation
  •  Increase self-efficacy by giving students relatively easier task or exam early in the course so that they can feel competence and then move to more difficult exams and projects
  • Extrinsic rewards are beneficial when they contain informative feedback and these feedback should lead to improvements. Taking time to give constructive feedback through comments written on assignments or during the class will facilitate students’ engagement and motivation.
  • Encourage cooperation (e.g. peer-learning and group discussion)
  • Stimulate curiosity. Include some games and fun aspects.
  • Become a good listener and Understand students; Be accessible and show leadership & mentoring
  • Attempt to remove obstacles that limit students’ performance

These tactics are crucial, but above all it is important to motivate yourself as a teacher.

Teaching is challenging. It requires enormous energy and enthusiasm to motivate and inspire students. You might encounter hardships. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. Monetary reward and school breaks would not always satisfy you. Self-motivation is truly important and you need to find what motivates you to be a teacher who can motivate students.

These are the resources that you can get further and deeper information regarding motivation.

 Ah Ram Lee is a doctoral student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC6930). 




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