donderdag 3 september 2015

Dimensions of Motivation

You may find it more helpful to view classroom motivation through the “four dimensions” framework, which researchers have used to articulate four major elements of motivation that can be found within the classroom (Murray, 2011; Pintrich, 2003; Ryan and Deci, 2000). 

The four dimensions are competence, autonomy/control, interest/value and relatedness. Usher and Kober (2012) at the Center on Education Policy have done a wonderful job of summarizing the four dimensions in an easy-to-read table:

Four Dimensions of Motivation

Am I capable?
The student believes he or she has the ability to complete the task.

Can I control it?
The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome. The student retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.

Does it interest me?
Is it worth the effort?
The student has some interest in the task or sees the value of completing it.

What do others think?
Completing the task brings the student social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a classroom or other desired social group or approval from a person of social importance to the student.

What can you do to increase motivation?
Just being aware of the dimensions of motivation is not enough. As an educator, you may have students who display weak motivation and you will need to use a variety of strategies within your classroom to engage and motivate them. Although all four dimensions of motivation are intertwined, depending on the student and the given activity or situation, one dimension of motivation may be more prominent than the others. Keeping this in mind, you will want to develop lessons and activities that activate all four dimensions of motivation to reach all the students in your classroom. In the remainder of this article we present definitions of the four dimensions and examples of strategies you can adopt to increase student motivation.


If students feel that they have the skills to complete a specific task, they are more likely to engage in the task. For example, a high school student might be more likely to complete a complex multiplication problem than a third grade student because the former is more confident in her math skills. However, if a student lacks competence motivation, there are a variety of strategies you can use to support this dimension. One strategy is scaffolding instruction, where you provide supports to increase skills in which the student is weak and then over time remove the supports (Blackburn, 2005). Scaffolding allows for students to build confidence through personal success. Examples of scaffolding supports include graphic organizers, direct instruction, visual supports, cooperative group work and task analysis. Be mindful of using teacher language that conveys faith in students’ abilities and intentions. For more information on teacher language see our previous article, “Building positive relationships with students.”


When students feel they have control over a situation and their level of interaction with a particular task, they are also more likely to be motivated. Giving a child the choice between doing the dishes and taking out the trash is more likely to get him motivated to make a choice than telling him that he has to do his chores. Within the classroom, provide students with options for assignments. Consider the Monty Hall approach, “Door number one, two, or three.” The content is the same (three doors), but the items vary in design and format. Also, offer multiple ways to demonstrate knowledge. Differentiation and allowing for personal expression is the key. Examples include book reports, poster presentations, use of technology, choice boards, and dramatic interpretations.


Students are also more motivated when they find the topic relevant and meaningful to their lives. This doesn’t mean that all of your lessons have to tie into pop culture, but it does mean that you have to be able to demonstrate to students how they will use the information in their lives. To activate this dimension of motivation, create activities that embrace student interest, individuality, and various learning styles. Examples include the use of manipulatives, movement, and real world relevance and application.


Finally, peer pressure or social norms can have a great influence on student motivation. Social experiments have shown that if a group of people all begins to engage in a particular behaviour, such as facing a different direction in an elevator, most of us are likely to follow suit (Zimbardo, 2012). This phenomenon can work to your advantage in the classroom. If you establish a classroom culture of high expectations and active engagement, it is likely that the majority of the class will accept those norms. To enhance this dimension of motivation in your classroom, consider creating lessons that are interactive and allow for movement. Examples include creating community through holding morning meetings, assigning cooperative group work, establishing roles and responsibilities, using open-ended questions. and facilitating group discussions/debates. Some students may be seeking social reinforcement in the form of verbal or nonverbal feedback. Positive feedback can come in multiple forms such as verbal praise, a smile, a high five, a sticker or lunch with a teacher or peer.

Each of your students might be more motivated by one particular dimension than the others. Through careful observation you can begin to determine which dimensions are the most powerful motivators for your students. As an educator, you can have a dramatic impact on student motivation within your classroom. You control the activities and structure of your classroom and can support students in the areas of motivation in which they are weak. The next time you find yourself lamenting over a student’s “lack of motivation,” remember the four different dimensions of motivation and purposefully choose a strategy to implement within your classroom.

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