Cs Are the New Motivations


Student motivation is usually thought of in simple terms.  By this, we think students are either motivated for learning or they are not.  Yet, motivation is not static.  It is perhaps more useful to think about how instructors initially get, then keep student motivation. How can we build and maintain motivation for adopting to new instructional methods that aim to prepare workplace ready skills?


To understand motivation of students, we must always remember the aim of the change.  The vision of changing and adopting innovative and impactful instructional approaches to reach the goals of MS2W must always be clearly understood by students and instructors.  Communication of the larger vision of the change process plays an important role in understanding motivation.


Motivation for learning has traditionally been divided into intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  Learners are motivated intrinsically by internal characteristics such as interest and enjoyment.  Whereas, extrinsic motivation is caused by trying to achieve desired external outcome such as earning recognition or a reward.  There is a great way to think about how to gain and maintain student motivation – The Three C’s of internal and external motivation.  1  


The Three C’s of internal motivation

1. Challenge.  Students are motivated when challenged.  Teaching strategies such as differing difficulty levels of content and materials, variation in the time for in-class assignments, and setting multiple goal levels for grade achievement.   

2. Curiosity – Sensory and cognitive curiosity are essential factors.  Technology supported learning and work-based experiences are examples of instructional strategies that drive motivation by connecting to curiosity.

3. Control – Students who feel in control of their learning are more motivated.  Providing students a choice of several assignments allows students to feel a sense of control about having selected how they wish to demonstrate their mastery and level of learning.  Consequently, motivation is lower when students feel they lack control over what they have to learn and how they need to learn.


The Three C’s of external motivation

Research has shown that extrinsic rewards are usually weaker than intrinsic factors for gaining and maintaining student motivation however, they still play an important role.

1. Cooperation.  Team-based learning strategies are powerful motivating factors.  Cooperative learning is easily achieved with technology where faculty and instructors can design student activities that encourage collaboration and cooperation in socially interactive classrooms.  Cooperative learning also helps develop skills highly valued by employers and needed for workforce ready students for 21st century jobs.

2. Competition.  Students are motivated by competing.  Psychologists have shown motivation can come from competition in ‘comparing self to others’ (direct competition) and ‘comparing self against self” (indirect competition).   Indirect competition is when students try to beat their previous personal standard, while, direct competition is when students, individually or in teams, compete to win with the highest level of knowledge demonstrated or learning achieved.

3. Celebration. Motivation is enhanced when students know their learning achievements will be recognized and celebrated.  Of course, a certificate or degree is the most visible example, but positive comments from teachers and even peers are motivating factors linked to celebration.


Recognizing that student motivation for new instructional methods and learning technologies is an essential part of institutionalization of the MS2W change process.  We hope to hear some examples posted on the Edmodo site of specific methods of teaching and classroom activities that you have tried that produce high student motivation in some of categories of the “Three C’s”.


1.  The 3 C’s model is adapted from: Ciampa, K. (2014). Learning in a mobile age: an investigation of student motivation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(1), 82-96.