Building Student Motivation

About our workshops

The workshop designs in Teaching Essentials are indicative. They provide a sense of what we can offer. LEAD is flexible about how, where and when the sessions are offered and will work with you to design to your context by including particular requirements as necessary.

This first section is intended for self-study based on a selection of readings and a guided peer discussion. It can also be used as a pre-workshop ‘flipped’ activity for the second section, a CPD active workshop.

Email the Teaching Essentials team in LEAD if you would like to arrange a workshop for your department or course team. Workshops will be customised to reflect your needs and context.

What is Building Student Motivation about?

The Buiding Student Motivation workshop looks at successful classroom strategies for ensuring all of your students are motivated to learn and ready to make the necessary commitment to succeed.

The focus on motivation allows us to look at the learning experience in the round. We will consider and compare techniques, but we will keep in mind the central question:

Why does each one of my students want to be here learning with me?

Intended learning outcomes

You will be able to,

  • define for your own context what is meant by ‘engagement’ and understand the relation of motivation to this;
  • critically review your practice and the learning environment you foster ensuring that they help students to feel positive about themselves and do not inadvertently alienate your students;
  • develop and apply a learner motivation strategy;
  • identify and use feedback from various sources to sustain your motivational strategies.

Part 1. Self-study: what to do now

  1. Find out about student motivation from this page. (10 minutes)
  2. While it is fresh, conduct a diagnostic review of your own practice for yourself to reflect on. (20 minutes)
    Use a piece of paper or print this Diagnostic Review document.
    Score your own reaction to the following statements as honestly as possible.
    Where you strongly agree, give yourself 5 points. Where you strongly disagree, score yourself 1. Assign points between accordingly. Make a note about what you would like to do to improve.

    1. My students know I am happy to see them.
    2. I know and use my student’s names.
    3. My students can have a laugh with me before or after class or during activities and discussions in class.
    4. I always spend time building a ‘big picture’ of what we are about to learn so students can easily grasp the focus for study. They have a strong learning orientation.
    5. I set out conundrums based on ‘big picture’ ideas. For example, I use authentic problems from practice, scenarios based on the real-world, and case studies, etc. These allow me to incrementally set challenges and build complexity.
    6. When I explain processes and concepts, I situate abstract ideas along with concrete examples so that students can easily grasp key theories and principles and how they are applied.
    7. I get feedback from my colleagues on my lesson plans to help me sense-check my approach and I go out of my way to sense-check their plans. We observe and give feedback on each other’s teaching when we can and sometimes co-teach.
    8. I acknowledge my students whenever they make valuable contributions to what we are learning, either individually or through group activities.
    9. I know when individuals are struggling or feeling anxious and I go out of my way to check if they need any help. I know how to signpost them to support services if necessary (see Students in Distress information).
    10. I know who is attending and who is not. I deploy good strategies for following up with students who do not attend.
      Reflect on your strengths and write create a set of summary action points.

Having read the article and conducted the diagnostic review, you are ready to contribute to the face-to-face workshop.

Part 2. Active workshop session

(2 hours recommended)

Prior to this workshop, you need to:


(10 minutes)

In the workshop we will,

actively explore and develop ways to build your students’ motivation in class.

  • Welcome, session objectives, methods and outline ;
  • Review what we learnt in the self-study activities;

Comparing different meanings of student engagement

We will begin by clarifying what we mean in this workshop by the term learner engagement and differentiate this from ideas like ‘the student voice’ and student engagement in extracurricular activities. However, these meanings are not disconnected as we shall see. (resource: Thomas, 2012)

Building a Charter based on motivational factors

(40 minutes)

Following on from the initial discussion, we will explore what motivation means by analysing factors that matter to us as people. To do this we will review our own positive memories of feeling motivated. We will build, analyse and categorise a list of motivational factors. From this, we will construct, through negotiation, a Charter for Engagement and think about how making such an agreement together works as a positive approach to developing expectations for engagement.

A Charter for Engagement can be a useful and tangible product for a cohort. It’s a co-produced document made through discussion that sets out what works for the class based on their memories of what has worked before.

We will reflect on this activity as a valuable method that we can use with our students to establish learning and teaching commitments and metacognition. We will ask questions like,

  • Is it inclusive?
  • Is it threatening?
  • Is it empowering?
  • Is it comprehensive?
  • Is it manageable?
  • Are there other methods we can use?

Co-production of a personal motivation design strategy

(40 minutes)

Your aim is to develop a personal strategy and plan for developing your practice and establishing the learning environment so that your students are motivated to learn. You will select from a range of ideas that include both methods and attitudinal dimensions.

Working in pairs, with reference to the ideas in the How to build learner motivation section and your own Diagnostic Review, you will sort through, discuss and prioritise ideas that you want to include in your personal plan. Working in pairs will help you to clarify, compare and develop ideas.

Monitoring motivation levels and engagement

(20 minutes)

Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick (2006) note that learning provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching. For example, by:

  • questioning students in class;
  • observing what students do, e.g. presentations, participation in discussion, how they work together in groups;
  • setting assessment tasks.

Each of these activities generates feedback to the teacher about a student’s engagement, as well as the knowledge they are developing. However, there are tools like module evaluation exercises, Office Hours conversations, and attendance monitoring that also provide valuable indications to the lecturer about motivation and engagement.

Will will compare these and other strategies for monitoring, sustaining and developing motivation, and for responding to drops in learner motivation levels.

Further information


Nicol, D., & Macfarlane‐Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218. A version is freely available online here on the REAP project website.