Motivation is what we all need in life. Motivation helps us when we study, when we work and when we pursue personal goals. Can you imagine building a house or running your first marathon without motivation? Motivational states are commonly understood as forces acting within the agent that creates a disposition to engage in goal-directed behavior.

Fostering the motivation of students is a difficult but necessary task. How can it be done? In this blog post, you will learn about different motivational techniques and methods.


Self-determination theory (SDT) says that there are two types of motivation:  intrinsic and extrinsic, which primarily involve the satisfaction of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

  • Autonomy refers to having a choice in one’s own behaviors and feeling that those behaviors stem from individual choice rather than external pressure or control. In educational contexts, students feel autonomous when they are given a voice and options, within a structure, about how to perform or present their work.
  • Competence refers to perceiving one’s own behaviors or actions as effective and efficient. Students feel competent when they receive clear feedback and track their progress in developing skills or an understanding of course material.
  • Relatedness refers to feeling a sense of belonging, closeness, and support from others. In educational settings, relatedness is fostered when students feel intellectually and emotionally connected to their peers and instructors in the class. This can often be accomplished through interactions that allow students and teachers to get to know each other on a deeper, more personal level.[1]


Intrinsic motivation is the act of doing an activity purely for the joy of doing it, and it is frankly very rare in school and work contexts. Extrinsic motivation is the use of external rewards or punishments to encourage student work completion.[2]

Here are some strategies to enhance autonomy, competence, and relatedness ( Yarborough, C. B., & Fedesco, H. N., 2020):


  • Have students choose paper topics
  • Have students determine the medium with which they will present their work
  • Have students select the topics you will cover in a particular unit
  • Drop the lowest assessment or two (e.g., quizzes, exams, homework)
  • Have students identify preferred assignment deadlines
  • Gather mid-semester feedback and make changes based on student suggestions
  • Provide meaningful rationales for learning activities
  • Acknowledge students’ feelings about the learning process or learning activities throughout the course


  • Set high but achievable learning objectives
  • Communicate to students that you believe they can meet your high expectations
  • Communicate clear expectations for each assignment
  • Include multiple low-stakes assessments
  • Give students practice with feedback before assessments
  • Provide lots of early feedback to students
  • Have students provide peer feedback
  • Scaffold assignments
  • Praise student effort and hard work
  • Provide a safe environment for students to fail and then learn from their mistakes


  • Share personal anecdotes
  • Get to know students via small talk before/after class and during breaks
  • Require students to come to office hours (individually or in small groups)
  • Have students complete a survey where they share information about themselves
  • Use students’ names (perhaps with the help of name tags)
  • Have students incorporate personal interests into their assignments
  • Share a meal with students or bring food to class
  • Incorporate group activities during class, and allow students to work with a variety of peers
  • Arrange formal study groups
  • Convey warmth, caring, and respect to students


[1] Yarborough, C. B., & Fedesco, H. N. (2020). Motivating students. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [08.12.2022] from

[2] Chuter C. The role of motivation in learning. (2020),

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University

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