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In Student Engagement Techniques, Barkley discusses the following thirteen tips and strategies for fostering motivation:

  1. Expect engagement
  2. Develop and display the qualities of engaging teachers
  3. Use behaviourist-based strategies to reward learning rather than behaviour
  4. Use praise and criticism effectively
  5. Attend to students’ basic needs so that they can focus on the higher-level needs required for learning
  6. Promote student autonomy
  7. Teach things worth learning
  8. Integrate goals, activities, and assessment
  9. Craft engaging learning tasks
  10. Incorporate competition appropriately
  11. Expect students to succeed
  12. Help students expect to succeed
  13. Try to rebuild the confidence of discouraged and disengaged students

The above list is a resourceful list to foster motivation amongst your learners.  I would like to explore #3 – “Use Behaviourist-based strategies to reward learning rather than behaviour” (Barkley, 2010).   This reminded me of a class I was enrolled in the past as a student.  In this class, the teacher would consistently praise students for good work.  I was motivated in class to get the right answers so I can get a “praise”.  So in a sense the teacher was controlling how we behaved.  When I look back at that class, I was so focused on receiving the praise that when I did get the praise, I felt my task was done.  I had no more interest to learn more.  This is what is called an extrinsic reward.

Brophy (2004, pp. 154-157) states ” how extrinsic rewards are classified as bribes for what students should be doing anyway.  Extrinsic rewards such as praise, bonus points and exemptions from work have a negative effect.  Not only do they control students’ behaviour and decrease student motivation, they also promote situational compliance.”

When students are rewarded extrinsically through praise, extra points and even rewards such as exemption from an assignment, student’s behaviour is being manipulated or controlled.  Students are robbed of independent learning and do not develop attitudes, values and beliefs.  As in my college example, I felt my task was done once I received the praise.  I was not self-directed to learn more.  I was not intrinsically motivated.   So you can see the cons of extrinsic rewards are like coddling your students.  If you don’t allow your learners to think for themselves, student motivation is based on what they will get for performing this task.  These are not skills we want to pass on to our learners as they will take this behaviour to the workplace and be unsuccessful.

Teachers who use behaviourist-based strategies puts emphasis on the learning process rather than the manipulation of behaviour.   Let your students know it is about the process of learning, not about the outcome.   This is an important strategy to use so learners can be less anxious about the process and know what is expected of them, rather than completing the activity like a race.

I often remind my learners that it is all about the process not the outcome. It’s important for them to realize that the process is more important than the end result. The process entails many strategies.  Looking at the learning pyramid above, the learning processes that have the highest retention rates are teaching others, practicing by doing, discussion groups and demonstrations.   It is interesting to see traditional learning such as lecture and reading score the lowest in retention rates which confirms to me as an instructor to be mindful of talking times while lecturing and aware that reading yields minimal retention in long-term memory.  Things that I will need to consider as an instructor is good time management when lecturing.  This on-line article,”Why Long Lectures are Ineffective“, states “students have 10-18 minutes of optimal focus…before zoning out”.  Traditional classrooms focus on lectures and assign reading as homework but is this effective?  If instructors want students to be engaged and have higher retention, its essential teachers manage their talking time to under 10 minutes and devise different strategies to “restart the attention clock”.  I have devised my lesson plan so my learners maintain engagement by watching the time carefully making sure I lecture no more than 10 minutes maximum at one time.  I will often break the lecture up by asking an essential question mid lecture, and this essential question may garner an answer that may stray off from the main concept but this doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the learner is engaged and using higher thinking processes such as analyzing and evaluating.  The fact that they are engaged and captivated by the essential question makes me happy.  As a teacher, it’s my job to facilitate this higher thinking and bring the focus back on the concepts.  This in-class open discussion fosters class engagement and intrinsic motivation.  Another way to get learners learning is to incorporate group work.  Students learn well using their hands so group work is another way to maintain engagement, intrinsic motivation and complete your lesson objectives.

At the college where I teach,  some freshmen students often complain about poor palpation skills, lack of interview skills and poor assessment techniques.  This is because learners learn a vast amount of information in their first year and are overwhelmed.  And are unable to put it all together.  Learners often focus on what they don’t know versus what they do know.  This is where I ask the student to take a step back and focus on what they do know and slowly build upon that knowledge. I remind them of my favourite quote; Merriam & Caffarella & Baumgartner’s (2007) statement, “Learning occurs when their is a change of behaviour”.    Patience is key here and it’s important for instructors to remind students that learning is a process.

In their final term, learners review all material and create treatment plans from a holistic perspective.  This is where we see learners transform and amalgamate all their cognitive knowledge, psycho-motor skills and affective behaviour.  During this process of self discovery, students realize incremental learning was taking place during their freshman year.  And in their final year, they can put everything they have learned all together to plan a holistic treatment.

Teachers must make sure what they are learning has relevance so students know the rationale of why they are using a certain technique or assessment.  Not only does it increase learner confidence, but competence increases as well.  It is these 21st century skills what makes my learners sought out by employers right after graduation.  I am proud to have done my job of facilitating learning strategies amongst my learners.  Motivation is key to learning but teachers must harness it.  A teacher must be employed with many engagement and motivation strategies for motivation to occur.


Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques. A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Brophy, J.E. (2004). Motivating the students to Learn. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.

Khan,S. (Oct, 2012).  Why Lectures are Ineffective.  Retrieved on-line on Oct. 25, 2014 from http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/02/why-lectures-are-ineffective/

Merriam & Caffarella & Baumgartner (2007).  Learning in Adulthood.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.