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  • Writer's picturePamela Bruening

5 Intrinsic Motivators to Engage Students in Learning

Are you frustrated with unmotivated students? Do you want to move them beyond extrinsic rewards? Do you wish students would take responsibility for their own education? Here are five simple techniques to build into instruction in moving your students from extrinsic motivators to more internal and personal interest in their daily classroom activities.

1. Incorporate an element of choice within classroom activities all designed to meet the same standard and objective. Incorporating choice into learning activities is also one way to differentiate instruction. Choices can be used to vary cognitive complexity, learning style and preference, and interests for a variety of learners. Provide choices through a choice board, tic-tac-toe board, or bulleted list and corresponding description.

2. Have students set their measurable goals for their learning at the beginning of each unit of study. Make goals more learning focused than performance focused to reinforce the purpose of education, learning. One way to do this is to preview the contents of a unit of instruction and formulate learning goals from specific unit elements. Another way to approach goal setting is through the amount of time taken to learn something or the specific mastery measurement of learning information. Teaching students to set goals prior to learning helps them to understand manageable ways to approach larger tasks, a important skill for both school and the workplace.

3. Have students review and graph individual progress toward goals weekly. While setting goals is important, regular review of those goals in the tracking of personal progress towards goals is also a motivator. You can also graph whole class progress toward a class goal to encourage teamwork toward learning goals.

4. Incorporate student interests into learning. This is another way to differentiate instruction and appeal to student interest and what they view as important in their own lives. When students see a real life connection and reason for learning, they are more likely to engage in learning.

5. Start every unit of instruction with an attention-grabber. Rather than allowing the textbook to lead, investigate each area of instruction for an angle in grabbing students’ attention. It might be a three-minute video clip, an editorial of related interest and content, a current event, a common challenge students face, an activity, a short skit or mime, or a painting. If techniques are varied, students will eagerly anticipate each new unit of study.

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