Fundamental Questions???

How do you successfully engage students in your classes?  Poll

Which metric might senior students report that would provide evidence of student engagement in your courses? Poll

What pedagogical method is most engaging for students? Poll

Curricular Peer Interaction

Quick Reflection

(in iTeachAK Community): What one or two instructional strategies would you like to focus on at iTeach for promoting student engagement in your next course?

Primary references

Motivation: The CDE Experience

From our (CDE Instructional Designers and Teachers) experience:

  • social mechanisms, intrinsic participatory values
  • social presence and positive narcissism (public performance)
  • the virtuous circle of intellectual and social currency
  • gaming mechanics (leaderboards, light competition, quantification of attention)
  • response to being given responsibility and higher expectations
  • tying into students ongoing “real” lives and place/context-based learning
  • engaging different modalities

Motivation: The Research Literature

(Lowman, 1984; Lucas, 1990; Weinert and Kluwe, 1987; Bligh, 1971) The following activities most significantly enhance student motivation:

  • Give frequent, early, positive feedback that supports students’ beliefs that they can do well.
  • Ensure opportunities for students’ success by assigning tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult.
  • Help students find personal meaning and value in the material.
  • Create an atmosphere that is open and positive.
  • Help students feel that they are valued members of a learning community.

(Sass 1989) reports the following commonality in student reporting of what makes a class engaging:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm
  • Relevance of the material
  • Organization of the course
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material
  • Active involvement of students
  • Variety
  • Rapport between teacher and students
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples

(Lucas 1990): “Make students active participants in learning. Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving.”

(Forsyth and McMillan, 1991): “Vary your teaching methods. Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and their motivation. Break the routine by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods in your course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers, or small group work.”

(Cashin, 1979; Lucas, 1990) “Introduce students to the good work done by their peers. Share the ideas, knowledge, and accomplishments of individual students with the class as a whole.” Suggestions include:

  • Pass out a list of research topics chosen by students so they will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of the best papers and essay exams.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to your lecture.


  • Bligh, D. A. What’s the Use of Lecturing?Devon, England: Teaching Services Centre, University of Exeter, 1971.
  • Cashin, W. E. “Motivating Students.” Idea Paper, no. 1. Manhattan: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development in Higher Education, Kansas State University, 1979.
  • Forsyth, D. R., and McMillan, J. H. “Practical Proposals for Motivating Students.” In R. J. Menges and M. D. Svinicki (eds.), College Teaching: From Theory to Practice. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, no. 45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.
  • Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
  • Lowman, J. “Promoting Motivation and Learning.” College Teaching, 1990, 38(4), 136-39.
  • Lucas, A. F. “Using Psychological Models to Understand Student Motivation.” In M. D. Svinicki (ed.), The Changing Face of College Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 42. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.
  • Sass, E. J. “Motivation in the College Classroom: What Students Tell Us.” Teaching of Psychology, 1989, 16(2), 86-88.
  • Weinert, F. E., and Kluwe, R. H. Metacognition, Motivation and Understanding. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1987.

Additional Resources

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century (National Academy of Engineering)

Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students’ Motivation to Learn (Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn, National Research Council)

Prove*It: A database of Peer Reviewed Research Offering Validation of Effective and Innovative Teaching. This is an online index and search engine of research for undergraduate STEM course instruction (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), indexed by learning outcomes and instructional strategy.

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