Research Motivation and Strategies to Apply

The following is a review and synthesis work by Ames and Ames, 1984; Brophy, 1983; Cornp and Rohrkemper, 1985; Deci and Ryan, 1985; Keller, 1983; Keller, 1983; Kolesnik, 1978; Leper and Greene, 1978; Maehr, 1984; Malone, and Lepper and McCombs, 1984; Nicholls, 1984; Wolodkowski, 1978, and Mathews, 2020.   (

Cynthia Mathews is Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction and author of education books. She is secondary public school teacher and consultant for motivating students to complete their classroom assignments (Dissertation, 2010). Mathews may be reached at

Research Motivation and Strategies to Apply

Review / Synthesis:

If activated in particular learning situations, motivation to learn may function as a scheme or script. Motivation to learn may also function as a cognitive element—such as piercing goals and associated strategies for accomplishing the intended learning; when applied appropriately, motivation can entice the spirit of learners to receive knowledge.

If teachers could solve motivation problems merely by finding out what their students like to do and arrange for them to do it, students would be inclined or motivated to take action.

Strategies for motivating students to apply lessons not only to perform on tests or assignments but also to effect information processing activities are necessary and attainable by students if students pay attention to lessons, if students read for understanding, if students paraphrase ideas, and if students learn contents or skills.

Students need motivation to complete a task. Two concepts are the norm: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, whereas an important understanding of Expectancy X Value Theory helps to position motivational strategies—intrinsic or extrinsic—in appropriate perspectives.

Intrinsic motivation is the liking for enjoyment of an activity. However, intrinsic motivation, even for academic activities, does not necessarily imply motivation to learn.

Students may enjoy participating in an educational setting without trying to derive any academic benefit from it.

Students can try to gain knowledge or skills that an activity is designed to teach without enjoying the activity.

Extrinsic incentives and competition are more effective for stimulating intensity of effort than for inducing thoughtfulness or quality of performance. Rewards and competition are best used with practice tasks designed to produce mastery of specific skills rather than within incidental learning or discovery tasks, and with tasks where speed of performance or quantity of output is more of a concern than creativity, artistry, or craftsmanship.

Additionally, development and organization of the loss of strategies has been guided by Expectancy X Value Theory, which posits that the effort people will expend on a task is a product of the degree to which they value participation on the task itself or the benefits or rewards that successful task completion will bring to them.

This theory assumes that no effort will be invested in a task if either factor is missing entirely, no matter how much of the other factor may be present.

People do not invest effort in tasks that do not lead to valued outcomes even if they know they can perform the task successfully, and they do not invest effort on even highly valued tasks if they are convinced that they cannot succeed no matter how hard they try.

The Expectancy X Value Theory of Motivation implies that, in order to motivate students to learn, teachers must both help them to appreciate the value of academic activities and make sure that students can achieve success on these activities if they apply reasonable effort.

Motivational Strategies from Synthesis of Research on Strategies for Motivating Students to Learn

Importantly, no motivational strategies can succeed with students if the following non-annotated preconditions are not in effect:

(1) Supporting a conducive learning environment.

(2) Presenting an appropriate level of challenging difficulty.

(3) Supplying meaningful learning objectives.

Furthermore . . . Preconditions for students’ learning compliance consists of

4) Setting goal performance appraisal, and self-reinforcement skills helping students to recognize linkages between effort and outcome.

(5) Promoting remedial socialization.

(6) Offering rewards for good or improved performance.

(7) Structuring appropriate competition. 

(8) Calling attention to the instrumental value of academic activities.

(9) Adapting tasks to students’ interests.

(10) Allowing choice of autonomous decisions.

(11) Providing opportunities for students to respond actively.

(12) Providing immediate feedback to student response.

(13) Allowing students to create finished products.

(14) Including higher level objectives and divergent questions.

(15) Providing opportunities to interact with peers.

(16) Modeling interest in learning and motivating.

(17) Communicating desirable expectations and attributions about students’ motivation to learn.

(18) Projecting intensity.

(19) Projecting enthusiasm.

(20) Inducing task interest or appreciation.

(21) Inducing dissonance or cognitive conflict.

(22) Making abstract content more personal, concrete, or familiar.

(23) Inducing students to generate their own motivation to learn.

(24) Stating learning objectives and providing advance organizers.

Mathews Motivational Theory

After teaching many students over the years and asking students on a continual basis, “Are you interested in learning?” the writer of this post attests to the response of every student, “Yes.” Through students’ written assessments–after they have completed instructional assignments–students have revealed they wish to be shown how to learn. Students have shared that they hope to believe that others will believe in them and be willing to teach them without robbing them of their self-respect.

Having taken seriously students’ willingness to learn, the writer of this post has developed practical steps for teachers to take to help ensure that their students learn. By following the simple approach as illustrated herein, teachers can motivate their students to learn. The first step begins with the teacher: The development of a professional stance:

The teacher’s prerogative is to present himself or herself as a professional. A presentation of professional dress—for a male, slacks, coat, and tie are necessary to invite order and respect into instructional teaching; for female, a sleeved dress or skirt, blouse, blazer, closed-in shoes.

Research supports professional dress to induce students to accept instruction as businesslike and serious ( The Effect of Teachers’ Dress on Students’ Attitude and Students’ Learning). Research further reveals that students’ views of teacher professional dress correlates to students’ classroom performance, reporting that students believe teachers are smart and organized when they dress professionally, opening the classroom environment to student motivation to learn.

Recognize students as human beings who deserve respect. All student deserve to be treated as if they matter ( People feel special when they receive eye contact from teachers and are addressed by their names when called upon. Students appreciate being included in instruction even though they may not participate fully and prefer not to be heckled when reluctant to respond yet placated and inspired to participate in activities because teachers believe they are worthy and add value to classroom learning. Being treated respectfully as a human being is an important step to take when gaining and maintaining students’ motivation to learn.

If teachers teach lessons of value, teachers will witness their entire class participating happily. Students may not realize their purpose in life at an early age (K-12) and may show signs of pessimism if they view their lives do not matter.

When instruction of the virtues, for example, becomes a standard for learning and living, students will begin to view school as valuable, for without realizing reasons for living, without understanding how to live their best lives, students may feel a void, an empty space that twirls into apathy, losing motivation to learn the required national standards that they fail to see the value from the outset.

This empty space in students’ lives can be filled with lessons of how to be good, decent citizens in their societies. For few examples, lessons on self-reliance, patience, kindness, and perseverance are lessons that add value to students’ lives.

Teaching virtues will help students situate their lives: teaching virtues places students on a scaffold of support while they navigate through life’s journey.

Once students discern that they are learning necessary life skills, they will partake in classroom instruction because they will be motivated to learn the national school standards while they are simultaneously being directly taught the virtues of life.

Virtuous concepts are valuable to students; the concepts motivate students to learn intrinsically, which is the ultimate goal of many pedagogical classrooms.

Relevance is another effective motivational tool. Many students do not care about learning teachers’ provided instructions because students fail to visualize the relevance for their attention to be held.

A lesson of relevance is akin to life skills—how to do this; how to do that; why to do this; where to do that. Students desire to know about job opportunities, about moneymaking schemes, about living a prosperous and happy life.

Teachers may easily add life skills in their lesson plans by connecting real life scenarios to instruction. What is necessary for teachers to contemplate is the importance of students’ interests and to add students’ interests to activities disseminated in the classroom.

Reading the strategies this author shares meshes with the synthesized motivational strategies shared above. Lessons must be of students’ interests and benefit, and the cost factor of students’ efforts must be an assurance of their success, coupled with the Expectancy-Value Theory that warns, “Unless students view success for themselves in completing assignments much work on their parts may be held in abeyance.”

Mathews Delineated Student Motivational Strategies:

While many motivational strategies exist, the bottom five strategies are unique because the strategies directly entail the influential value of the student as a whole, as a person.

The strategies recognize the person as someone to support to catapult him or her to realms where education is not only motivational but also meaningful, knowledgeable, and prosperous for the student. The Mathews Motivational Strategies are as follows:

  1. Be professional in appearance and attitude so students will view you as a smart and trustworthy teacher.
  2. Treat students as respectful human being by projecting eye contact and calling affirmatively their names when addressing them.
  3. Teach students values that will help them develop into good, successful individuals.
  4. Add relevance to lesson plans to include career ideas and moneymaking concepts so that students may develop a life plan for a successful life.
  5. Make lessons interesting, keeping learning challenging yet achievable.


Cherry, K. An Overview of Social Psychology (2020). Verywellmind.

Expectancy-Value Theory: Educational Psychology. (ND).

Mathews, C. How to Motivate Students to Complete Their Classroom Assignments: Dissertation. 2010.

Synthesis of Research on Strategies for Motivating Students to Learn. Jere Brophy. Educational Leadership. (ND).



Published by cynthiamathews

I'm an innovative spirit, one who seeks new and practical ways to learn about life. I enjoy exploring innovative styles to motivate people to persevere in a challenging world. Having a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Curriculum & Instruction, I am inspired to maintain a life long learning experience that will allow me to share my knowledge with others. My expertise includes detecting apathy in individuals and prescribing ways to motivate them to be their best. To initiate this endeavor, I create and conduct personal and professional development programs. I write briefs and pamphlets and instructional guides to inspire, and I speak--upon request--to those who need a reminder of their inner excellence. My blog's main focus is to document my research on motivation and curriculum instruction and to share with subscribers the understanding, the ideas, and the strategies that result from my research. I am a native of Alabama, a teacher, and an author. I look forward to learning with you.