Intrinsic vs.


Motivational Strategies

“Motivational strategy is a deliberate action or process used by an instructor to enhance adult motivation to learn” (Galbraith, 2004).

Wlodkowski (2004) offers four strategies for motivating adult learners in an education setting (extracted from “Adult Learning Methods”, Galbraith, 2004):

  • Establish Inclusion
  • Develop a Positive Attitude
  • Enhance Meaning
  • Engender Competence

Establish Inclusion

Multidimensional Sharing
These activities provide students the opportunity to see each other in a situation that exposes their mutual needs, emotions, and experiences.
Example Exercise:
At the beginning of the first class, ask each student to introduce himself, listing

  • 1-5 places he has lived
  • 1 expectation of the course
  • 1 concern about the course
  • 1 hope for the course

Collaborative Learning
Collaborative exercises will involve joint efforts by both learners and instructors allowing groups to work together to mutually construct understanding, solutions, meaning, applications, or products. Example Exercise:
Allow the class as a group to brainstorm on the basic topic of the course.

Participation Guidelines
Identify the types of interactions and discussions that will be encouraged and discouraged in the course will develop a safe environment, providing an atmosphere where everyone will be comfortable and respected. This is best provided during the first class.
Example Rules to be Established:

  • Listen carefully, especially to different perspectives.
  • Keep personal information shared in the group confidential.
  • Speak from your own example rather than generalizing your experience to others.
  • No blaming or scapegoating.
  • Avoid generalizing about groups of people.
  • Share airtime.
  • Focus on your own learning.

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Develop a Positive Attitude

Use Relevant Learning Models
When adults witness other’s successes, they are prone to believe that they can also reach that desired goal.

Ensure Successful Learning
Adults are prone to like what they can be successful with. Just as they tend to find they dislike what they feel they are not successful at accomplishing.
Guarantee the following 3 qualities in the learning environment:

  • Effective instruction that will help them learn if they try to learn.
  • Concrete evidence that their effort makes a difference.
  • Continual feedback regarding the progress of their learning.

The K-W-L strategy
Include prior knowledge when introducing a new subject can bring meaning to learners that will make the learning process more successful for them.
The K-W-L has 3 phases:

  • Learners identify what they think they Know about the topic
  • Learners suggest what they Want to know about the topic
  • Learners identify what they Learned about the topic

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Enhance Meaning

Pose a Problem
When an obstacle exists where a person is trying to achieve a goal, mystery, fascination, or intrigue will enhance the learner’s motivation.

Creating a Simulation
Learning procedures that include role-playing, exercises, and games allow learners to practice in a realistic context. Simulations are also an excellent way to develop empathy and validation.

Provide Variety
Change is stimulating and will draw the learners attention toward the source of the change, making the student more engaged in the activity.
Examples of variety strategies:

  • Change methods of instruction.
  • Change materials used for instruction.
  • Change interpersonal learning patterns.

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Engender Competence

Provide Consistent and Prompt Feedback
Feedback provides learners the opportunity to evaluate their progress on a given task.
Examples of feedback methods:

  • comments on skill performance
  • notes on a written assignment
  • graphic records
  • approving nod

Authentic Performance Tasks for Assessment
Create tasks that will resemble the learners’ real life situations as closely as possible.
Wiggins (1998) defines a task as being authentic if it has the following:

  • is realistic
  • requires judgment and innovation
  • asks adults to “do” the subject
  • replaces the contexts that adults find in their real lives
  • assesses the learners’ ability to integrate new learning and to negotiate a complex task effectively
  • allows appropriate opportunities to get feedback and refine performance or products

Early Clarification of Assessment Tasks and Criteria
Encouraging learners to be self-assessing and self-directed requires that they understand the tasks and criteria by which they are assessed.

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Critical Thinking

Brookfield (2004) defines critical thinking as “the capacity to question the actions, justifications and decisions, and to imagine alternatives to current structures and moralities that are fairer and more compassionate.” The life long learning of critically thinking develops as we learn skills to think critically. In a formal educational setting, instructors need to be aware that most students have developed beliefs about the world around them and these beliefs seem so obvious to them that they may not see a need to try and view these ideas and actions from another point of view. The students may have hostility, anger and even resistance towards the idea of viewing beliefs that they have taken for granted from a point of view other than what they are comfortable with. Instructors should first engage in a critical thinking process to modeling their own vulnerability to class before asking students to participate in a critical thinking activity.

Brookfield provides the following Critical Thinking Techniques as ways to develop critical thinking skills for classroom settings:

  • Scenario Analysis
  • Lectures
  • Critical Incident Questionnaires
  • Critical Debate

Scenario Analysis
Scenario analysis is best administered in the early stages of developing critical thinking, emphasizing that this is to be done in non-threatening way.
Give the students a hypothetical scenario where the central character is given a decision to make. Use the following process:

  • Learners put themselves in place of protagonist.
  • Learners then write down assumptions they think this person is acting under.
  • Taking each assumption, the learner lists how the protagonist would check for accuracy and validity.
  • Finally, the learner makes an alternative interpretation of the scenario that the protagonist would disagree if confronted with.

End every lecture with a serious of questions that your lecture has raised for left unanswered. Deliberately introduce alternative perspectives. Introduce periods of assumption hunting.

Critical Incident Questionnaires
A weekly inquiry administered during the last 10 minutes of class is a good way to evaluate how students are experiencing their learning and your teaching. The beginning or each class should start with a report from the previous week’s questionnaire results. As the instructor, it is best to react in a non-defensive way, demonstrating that you are willing to learn from this critical thinking process. The questionnaire should be a single sheet of paper containing:

  • No student names.
  • A carbon underneath for students to keep a copy.
  • The following 5 questions:
  1. At what moment in the class this week were you most engaged as a learner?
  2. At what moment in the class this week were you most distracted as a learner?
  3. What action that anyone in the room took this week did you find most affirming or helpful?
  4. What action that anyone in the room took this week did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  5. What surprised you most about the class this week?

Critical Debate
A debate is a theatrical device with an element of player swagger built into it. It gives the students an opportunity to deeply engage themselves in familiar ideas.
To set up a critical debate:

  • Find a continuous issue which opinion is divided among participants. Frame the issue as a debate motion.
  • Propose the motion to participants.
  • Ask participants to volunteer to be for or against the issue.
  • Each group drafts arguments for their side.
  • Each group chooses one person to present their arguments.
  • The two groups get back together and draft rebuttal arguments.
  • Again, each group chooses one person to present the rebuttal arguments.
  • Once the rebuttals have been presented, discuss the experience, including how it felt to argue a against position each student is committed to.
  • Each participant follows the activity by writing a reflection paper, including:
    Assumptions about the issue.
    How to check these assumptions.
    New perspectives they have gained on the issue.
    If their existing assumptions were challenged.

Structured Critical Conversation
Brookfield defines a structured critical conversation as “a focused conversation in which someone is helped to come to an awareness of the assumptions that an individual is operating under, helping her to investigate to the extent to which these assumptions are well grounded in critically examined reality, helped to look at personal ideas and actions from different viewpoints, and helped to think about the implications of the conversation for future actions.”

In this type of conversation each person will play one of 3 possible roles, eventually giving all students the opportunity to play all roles.


  • Storyteller – becomes the focus of the critical conversation by describing a personal experience.
  • Detectives – help the storyteller examine the experience so he becomes more fully informed.
  • Umpire – a designated person to monitor the conversation, with the purpose of expressing when people are talking to each other in a judgmental way.


  • The story teller tells the event.
  • The detectives ask the story teller questions about the event.
  • The detectives report the assumptions that the story teller has made.
  • The detectives give alternate interpretations of the assumptions.
  • The participants have a conversation at the end to share what they have learned about the subject and the process.

Critical Reading
Many adults are expected to perform critical reading. Brookfield points out that there are very few examples to show what this process looks like. He states that critical reading happens when:

  • Readers make explicit the assumptions authors hold about what constitutes legitimate knowledge and how such knowledge comes to be known.
  • Readers take alternative perspectives on the knowledge being offered so that this knowledge comes to be seen as culturally constructed.
  • Readers undertake positive and negative appraisal of the grounds for, and expression of, this knowledge.
  • Readers analyze commonly held adult educational ideas for the extent to which they oppose dramatic values.

Following the reading process, adults can benefit from asking questions such as the following about the text:
Epistemological questions
To what extent does the writing seem culturally skewed?
To what extent are descriptive and prescriptive fused in an irresponsible and inaccurate way?
Experiential questions
What experiential omissions are there in a piece of literature that, to you, seem important?
To what extent does the piece of literature acknowledge and address ethical issues?
Communicative questions
Whose voices are heard in the piece of academic writing?
To what extent does the literature show a connectedness to practice?
Political questions
Whose interests are served by the publication of a text?
How do texts prescribe roles that retain the professional distance between educators and learners?

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Cultivate Interest and Curiosity

Csikszentmihalyi (1996) states “Even though personal creativity may not lead to fame and fortune, it can do something that from the individual’s point of view is even more important: make day-to-day experiences more vivid, more enjoyable, more rewarding.” Taking this attitude and realting it to a teaching environment will motivate students to have more enjoyable and rewarding experiences in their education.

Simple techniques in a classroom can spark interest and curiosity in adults learners, such as:

  1. Discuss surprising events in students lives.
  2. Start the class discussion by how each student surprised someone sicne the last class or how an object or action surprised them.
  3. Surprise students with something every class.
    Have a unique item incorporated into discuss, comparing similarities and idfference from items they are more familiar with. Include in the discussion what the thing actually is, not what each person interprets it to be.
  4. Have the students keep a Creative Journal answering the following question for their daily entry:
    • What surprised you today? Did you notice any unique items?
    • Who did you surprise today? Did you say something unexpected to someone?
    • What peaked your interest today and how did you follow it?
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Brookfield, Stephen D., (2004) Critical Thinking Techniques. IN: Galbraith, Michael W., Adult Learning Methods: A Guide for Effective Instruction (3rd ed), Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company

Csikszentmialyi, Mihaly. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishing.

Galbraith, Michael W. (2004). Adult Learning Methods: A Guide for Effective Instruction (3rd ed). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company

Wiggins, G. P. (1998). Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.

Wlodkowski, Raymond J., (2004) Creating Motivating Learning Environments, In Galbraith, Michael W., Adult Learning Methods: A Guide for Effective Instruction (3rd ed.), Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company

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Additional Resources

Ames , C., & Archer, J. (1988). Achievement goals in the classroom: Students’ learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 260–267.

Ames , C. (1992a). Classrooms: Goals, structures and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 261–271.

Ames , C. (1992b). Achievement goals and the classroom motivational climate. In D.H. Schunk & J.L. Meece (Eds.), Student perceptions in the classroom. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Archer, J. (1994). Achievement goals as a measure of motivation in university students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 19, 430–446.

Atkinson, J.W. (1957). Motivational determinants of risk taking behavior. Psychological Review, 64, 359–372.

Bouffard, T., Boisvert, J., Vezeau, C., & Larouche, C. (1995). The impact of goal orientation on selfregulation and performance among college students. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 65, 317–329.

Covington , M.V. (2000). Goal theory, motivation and school achievement: An integrative review. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 171–200.

deCharms, R. (1968). Personal causation: The internal affective determinants of behaviour. New York: Academic Press.

Dweck, C.S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41, 1040– 1048.

Eccles, J., Midgley, C., & Adler, T. (1984). Grade-related changes in the school environment: Effects on achievement motivation. In J.G. Nicholls (Ed.), The development of achievement motivation. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Elliot, A.J., McGregor, H.A., & Gable, S.L. (1999). Achievement goals, study strategies, and exam performance: A mediational analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 549–563.

Elliot, A.J., & Harackiewicz, J.M. (1996). Goal setting, achievement orientation and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 968–980.

Graham, S., & Golan, S. (1991). Motivational influences on cognition: Task involvement, ego involvement and depth of information processing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 187–194.

Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K., & Elliot, A.J. (1998). Rethinking achievement goals: When are they adaptive for college students and why? Educational Psychologist, 33, 1–21.

Kaplan, A., & Midgley, C. (1997). The effect of achievement goals: Does level of perceived academic competence make a difference? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 22, 415–435.

Midgley, C. (Ed.) (2001). Goals, goal structure, and pattern of adaptive learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Miller, R., Greene, B., Montalvo, G., Ravindran, B., & Nicholls, J. (1996). Engagement in academic work: The role of learning goals, future consequences, pleasing others, and perceived ability. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21, 388–422.

Pintrich, P.R. (2000). Multiple goals, multiple pathways: The role of goal orientation in learning and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 544–555.

Pintrich, P.R., Smith, D.A.F., Garcia, T., & McKeachie, W.J. (1991). The Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Ann Arbor, MI: NCRIPTAL, University of Michigan.

Pintrich, P.R., & Garcia, T. (1991). Student goal orientation and self-regulation in the college classroom. In M.L. Maehr & P.R. Pintrich (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement (Vol. 7). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Pintrich, P.R., & De Groot, E.V. (1990). Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 33–40.

Skaalvik, E.M., Vala´s, H., & Sletta, O. (1994). Task involvement and ego involvement: Relations with academic achievement, academic self-concept and self-esteem. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 38, 231–243.

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 68–81.

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J.S. (1992). The development of achievement task values: A theoretical analysis. Developmental Review, 12, 265–310.

Wolters , C.A. (1998). Self-regulated learning and college students’ regulation of motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 224–235.

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Kathleen O'Connell
December 2005
University of Maryland, Baltimore County