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3.1: Linking learner motivation to deeper engagement

  • Page ID
    87219
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    Authors: UQx LEARNx team of contributors

    A crucial element for deep engagement in learning is learner motivation. With this in mind we might ask these four questions

    1. How do we know if a learner is motivated?
    2. What kinds of factors motivate learners?
    3. How can we increase and sustain learner motivation?
    4. How is learning effected by a lack of motivation?

    Linking learner motivation to deeper engagement

    The emotional state of the learner.

    • Emotional competence
    • Interest and curiosity
    • Fun and challenge
    • Affective and physical safety

    Professor Annemaree Carrol from the School of Education at the University of Queensland explores some of the factors of the emotional engagement component of the model and talk about adaptive and maladaptive factors which impact upon student motivation


    • Motivation for deep learning is social.

    • Motivation for deep learning is emotional, and it encompasses the self in the context of peers, classrooms, schools, homes and communities.

    There seems to be a real connection to teachers and peers, a sense of belonging that creates interest and curiosity in their learning. But there is another essential ingredient – Emotions! Learning is both cognitive and emotional.

    ANNEMAREE CARROLL: We know that the essential ingredient that enables motivation to facilitate deep student learning is engagement. And as educators, we are very aware of how important it is for our learners to be engaged.

    Engagement has been defined as the extent to which students are connected to what they are learning, how they are learning it, and who they are learning from.

    Engagement can be behavioral – concerned with attention, effort, persistence and participation. It can be cognitive — concerned with values and goals, or emotional — concerned with belonging to a group or interpersonal relationships.

    Engagement can be perceived as the “hook” that captures students’ attention so that the students feel that the experience has value and relevance to their learning and their personal goals and needs.

    It’s important to note that as engagement draws on behavioral, social, emotional and cognitive dimensions, engagement in one dimension relates to the level of engagement in another. It’s also important to note that one can be motivated, but not necessarily engaged in a learning episode. Andrew Martin’s Motivation and Engagement Wheel graphically represents the distinction between 11 cognitive and behavioral factors represented as adaptive motivation; adaptive engagement; maladaptive motivation; and maladaptive engagement.

    Emotions drive our interests, motivation, and engagement. Immordino-Yang and Damasio define emotions as the perception of emotionally relevant triggers – either real or imagined – that trigger a physiological response leading to a behavioral and psychological outcome. Importantly, they tell us that

    “the aspects of cognition that are recruited most heavily in education, including learning, attention, memory, decision making, motivation, and social functioning, are both profoundly affected by emotions and in fact subsumed within the process of emotion.”

    • Emotions impact a range of cognitive capacities, including attention, memory, problem-solving, decision making, information processing, thinking, and engagement. They affect interest, motivation, and social interactions.

    • Emotions and deep engagement in learning are highly intertwined.

    For example, when the emotional experience associated with the level of engagement to learning is positive, the outcome is positive. But when the emotional experience associated with the level of engagement is negative, the outcome is negative. As such, when a learner is not emotionally engaged with the learning experience, learning is negatively impacted.

    Emotional disengagement or disaffection with the learning context often presents as withdrawal from the learning experience based on anxiety, boredom, frustration or apathy.

    If the learner finds the content boring, irrelevant, distressing, too difficult or too easy, they may become cognitively disengaged, as is evidenced through inattention, daydreaming, disruptive behavior and absenteeism. If they are cognitively disengaged, they are most likely to be behaviorally disengaged manifesting in the physical withdrawal of effort and participation.

    • A key emotional driver for deciding to engage is ‘Interest’.

    Where there is increased value and relevance for the learner, there is increased interest, which moves the learning experience into the optimal performance zone for the individual, leading to deep engagement. When enjoyment and interest are combined, the overall effect is one of fun or pleasure, and this is an essential component of creative problem-solving and deep engagement.

    The experience of positive emotions and an increased sense of fun has been shown to improve the capacity for creative and flexible thinking, increases persistence, supports the development of higher goals and aspirations, and opens our minds to a wider range of ideas, thoughts and actions.

    Interest is essential to initiate and direct attention and exploration, and is fundamental to motivation. Interest is what predicts a learner’s decision to remain engaged in the task or activity. The experience of the positive affect associated with fun and pleasure enhances an individual’s capacity to broaden their perspective, explore possibilities and take creative risks. All are essential for deep learning!


    3.1: Linking learner motivation to deeper engagement is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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