What Motivates Students to Learn? Applications for All Classroom Levels

Amber Perrell, Julia Erdie, Theresa Kasay


The Deans for Impact (DFI) (2015) report posed the question "What motivates students to learn?". This article examines strategies and interventions for each of the four cognitive principles presented in the report.  Within this paper, applications of the cognitive principles will be discussed at the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels.  The techniques recommended in reference to belief about intelligence include collective goal writing, focus on ability to overcome setbacks, and reinforcing a growth mindset.  Techniques for self-determined motivation reviewed include Project Based Learning, creating academic competition, and the use of letter grades in college courses.  As teachers encourage students’ ability to monitor their own learning, this article reviews Socratic Seminar techniques, Question Answer Relationships, and reflective writing methods as possible strategies.  Finally, this article includes interventions to reinforce belonging and acceptance through Writer’s Workshops, the wise feedback technique, and creating social-norming related to struggles with fitting in.


Student Motivation, Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, Incentives, Cognitive Science, Metacognition, Memory, Growth Mindset, Social Support Groups, Elementary Schools, Secondary Education, College, Higher Education, Intervention, Motivation Techn

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