Hands-On Engaged Workshop

Understanding and Supporting Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

Professor Jonathan D. Stolk

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

9:30 am – 11:30 am

Deason Innovation Gym, Caruth 106


Motivations act as a powerful influence on individual actions, and helping students develop positive motivations toward learning is key to long-term persistence, performance, and satisfaction. Research also illustrates that motivations are tightly connected to outcomes such as self-efficacy, critical thinking, creativity, self-regulation, and pro-social behavior – goals that are identified as critical to the success of future college graduates. However, a large gap remains between the understanding of motivations from the purely theoretical or educational research points of view, and the application of those insights to the day-to-day reality of the classroom.

This workshop offers an opportunity for instructors to directly apply motivation research to practical course design, and to identify specific ways in which they may positively influence student motivations in the classroom. By engaging in a hands-on project activity that mirrors the experience in an Olin project-based course, workshop participants will gain first-hand knowledge of motivation through the lens of an undergraduate student in the course. By considering their own response to the hands-on activity, workshop participants will gain insights into the influence of course design on student motivations.

Following the hands-on activity, Stolk will provide an overview of motivation theory, with a focus on the ideas in Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT) that were recently popularized by Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. We will examine the self-determination continuum, a theoretical construct that describes different situational, or activity-level, motivational responses along a spectrum from extrinsic to intrinsic. Concepts from self-determination theory will be illustrated using narratives and research data from classrooms at Olin and other undergraduate settings.

Finally, we will turn our attention to typical undergraduate course materials and approaches. Using simple curriculum design tools and frameworks, we will assess the extent to which a traditional course addresses the basic needs for intrinsic motivation, and generate ideas to improve students’ experience in the course. The session will conclude with a discussion of implementation challenges associated with some of the new ideas, as well as a description some of the strategies used to promote intrinsic motivation in Olin College courses.

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