Reading In Action

Chapter Three: Motivation


Building on the first two chapters topics of prior learning and knowledge organization, Chapter 3 of HLW asks the big question about motivation: 

What Factors Motivate Students to Learn? 
How Learning Works: Chapter 3 Motivation


Is it worth doing? Is this worth knowing? This is obviously subjective!

HLW describes the different types of value we seek:

  • Attainment value
  • Intrinsic value
  • Instrumental value


  • Is it possible?
  • Can I do it?
    • Has my prior experience affected my perceptions of self-efficacy?
    • Do I believe success is attributable to luck or effort

HLW says that learners who believe that efficacy can be influenced by controllable behaviours, like effort, will be more likely to achieve their goal. Of course the goal must be scaffolded in a way that shows the task or learning is possible.

Goal Setting

Once motivated, we want to encourage goal directed behaviour. Goals can take many forms, depending on your motivation. These are not mutually exclusive and may overlap in many ways.

  • Performance goals
    • Avoid incompetence
    • Achieve competence
  • Learning goals 
  • Affective goals
  • Social goals
  • Work avoidant goals (least effort for maximum success)

Supportive learning environment

Of course all of this is contingent upon a learning environment that is supportive and consistent with meeting goals, aligned with expectancies, and value.

So What?

This is a great question which HLW asks, what is the value?

Now What?

HLW works makes 18 suggestions, briefly summarized here:

  • Organize information & Prior knowledge
  • Show Relevance
  • Provide Flexibility
  • Scaffold towards goal
  • Show effort can help achieve the goal
  • Assessment is authentic and meaningful
  • Criteria for success (consistent, fair, explicit expectations and rubrics)
  • Targeted feedback towards goal-directed behaviour and success
  • Provide opportunities for Reflection

To reflect on this chapter and prepare for the upcoming book club meeting you may wish to comment on the following:

Is motivation an issue in your classes? Describe your challenge/ successes.

To encourage participation, those who share a comment/post this week will have their name entered into the Chapter Three draw for a $25 CAD gift certificate for Chapters Indigo. Read the contest guidelines here. Good luck!

The Book Club chat on Chapter Three will take place on Friday, October 5 at 10 AM PST. Check out the schedule and how to connect with the group. We also invite you to say hello in the Comments section of our Intro post.


  1. isabeaui

    Thank you for your excellent summary of this chapter Giulia. I’ve been enjoying re-reading this book:)

    In my role at the UBC CTLT, my learners are mostly faculty members. They come highly motivated, so building motivation is not usually the main concern. Nevertheless, finding relevant examples and making links is something I think a lot about. It is easy for people to think the issue is “x” when it may be “y”. For example, a faculty member may be concerned that they have low student evaluations of teaching. They may come up with an (incorrect or partially correct) theory about why that it is, and be missing out on other factors. In that case, one of my objectives is to help them see (i.e. motivate them to see?) that other factors may be at play.

    I appreciated the Expectancy piece of this chapter and the distinction between “Is it possible?” and “Can I do it?”. I’m going to give this one more thought …no comments for now other than it is a helpful distinction and one I enjoyed being reminded of.

  2. isabeaui

    I don’t know how to edit my own comment, so wanted to add: I’m sorry I won’t be able to join you at the discussion on Friday.

  3. Lucas Wright (@Lucwrite)

    I am super excited to talk about this chapter this Friday. I facilitated a workshop for the ISW focusing on this framework this year and it really changed the way I approach learning design conversations with instructors. For me the idea of expectancy is a revelation, summed up in the following quote “a student must not only believe that doing the assigned work can earn a passing grade, she must also believe that she is capable of doing the work necessary to earn a passing grade. ” There are so many concrete ways that we can focus on this in our classes! I also am excited about the focus on motivation. With motivation I feel many students have the tools and approaches that they can apply to improve their own learning. Such an awesome visual! I can’t wait to use it in future workshops.

  4. @giuliaforsythe

    We’ll miss you Friday, but glad you could chime in today. I agree with you, it’s challenging to determine how and why someone’s students are motivated. I spend a lot of time asking questions from faculty to see if they know and often it’s a big question mark. That’s also why I really appreciated the unpacking of this chapter as well.

  5. @giuliaforsythe

    Oh that’s so great, I can’t wait to hear about your ISW workshop. I’m always looking for new large group activities and this chapter has been a missing puzzle piece for me for a long time. Motivation seemed so complex but HLW really breaks it down. I’m looking forward to our discussion Friday!

  6. bccleva

    Hi Isabeau,
    You should see the word “Edit” in the line under your name on the right beside the date.
    Click on that and that should allow you to edit your post.

  7. bccleva

    Hi Isabeau, if I may add I have more permissions on the site so perhaps it’s just only if you are logged in and given the editing permissions. No worries though. Let’s learn together!

  8. english060girl

    Thank you for the effective summary, and especially for the graphic representation of the ideas. On a professional development/motivation note, I am interested in using more visual summaries in my teaching and learning — perhaps some of you can recommend learning resources/workshops for this (?)

    In any case, I enjoy thinking about motivation — especially my own. I find that I can be highly motivated, but that I want to feel a sense of intrinsic and affective value, agency, creativity and choice around this, so buy in around value, flexibility and reflection are key for me.

    As for my students’ motivation, I teach an “interesting” course: grade 12 equivalency English (Canadian Literature). There are a lot of understandable motivational barriers associated with the course. Students may not see the value of reading Canadian Literature or writing essays, they may not believe that they can write, they may have had little prior success with the education system or with English, and they may have many challenges in their lives that make academics difficult and/or low priority at times. I believe that building relationships and developing community in the classroom can help students to meet social and affective goals and hopefully support the achievement of learning and performance goals. I also believe participation in goal setting, self-monitoring and reflecting is one way to stay focused. I invite myself (and students) to write, revisit, revise and reflect on academic and non-academic goals they set for themselves associated with their own measures of success.


  9. Cloudsyl

    Thx 4 the visual Guilia. And the masterful summary of the Chapter. I have always found the topic of motivation broad and complex but really appreciate the practical focus of the book. As an educator of adults, usually instructors, learning developers, administrators who are interested in online learning or other pro-d subjects, my learners have diverse values, beliefs about their own (and my) efficacies 😉 and their lives are usually far too busy, complex and demanding for me to get a consistent handle on the fluctuating motivation they feel about parrticipating in my course. I’ve found that catching their attention and engaging their curiosity is a good way to start. I follow many of the strategies cited in the end of the chapter – but the best response I’ve found is to establish connections with each learner and to create and sustain a sense of ‘community’ – a community in which I am not their only supporter. So even when motivation ebbs and flows, they feel a tug from the online course where they’re drawn back to see what I and other learners are doing, discussing. creating. And social media helps as we can generate some buzz to keep them thinking about learning and highlight ways in which what they’re learning relates to their lives – work and community. Cheers.

  10. @giuliaforsythe

    That’s great. Goal setting is certainly an essential ingredient in the motivation mix. If you make it to the online chat tomorrow, I’d like to know if you find that this has improved motivation? Do students start seeing the value afterwards, through meeting their social and affective goals?

  11. @giuliaforsythe

    Wow, yes, to all of this. I can certainly relate. The learning environment is so essential. I’m sure we could overlay the community of inquiry framework onto many components of what we are talking about with motivation. It’s true that expectancies and value may be aligned but it’s the environment that makes the difference. I hope you can come to the online chat tomorrow and share some specifics of your strategies for sustaining community!

  12. Jennifer Kirkey

    Hi everyone. I am as bad my students leaving this to late on the night before. Motivation is a huge issue, as I teach physics at a community college. Maybe 1 in 100 of my students is considering being a physics major. Most are taking physics because they have to take a course as part of their biology degree. I agree strongly with what was written in this chapter. I spent a lot of time motivating by using “real world” examples, showing how physics can help them in their lives and their chosen path. Many of my students come in with math anxiety and the belief they are bad at science, so a lot of time is spent in small groups sharing their success. I scaffold my examples and questions as much as possible. I do online quizzes and allow them to take them 10 times. They get hints to help them along if they did not get it correct the first time.

    I use humour whenever I can — from sharing the Darwin Awards and analyzing the video “Dumb Ways to Die” from the principles of the three Great Conservation Laws – energy, linear momentum and angular momentum. In case you have not seen “Dumb Ways to Die” by the Australian Transit Authority,

    I have cat videos for the major sections of my course.
    Accelerating cat – cheetah from National Geographic
    Free falling cat.
    Projectile motion cat.
    Inertia cats = sliding on a hardwood floor
    Cat collisions
    Angular momentum cats – landing feet down, etc.
    Yes the are hyperlinked inside my Pressbooks textbook.

  13. Jennifer Kirkey

    Friday I can only be there for the start of the meeting, and might have to be on chat only. I am off campus doing an outreach visit and so will be on my cell phone. See you tomorrow.

  14. Cloudsyl

    Wish I could participate but I’m attending/participating in the SFU’ Sketching in Practice Symposium. Hav U ever been? A really interesting line-up

  15. Cloudsyl

    I love your techniques – am still hearing the Dumb Ways to Die song in my head. Anything you can do to present alternative ways of seeing/understanding eh? And making them laugh makes learning fun! What a concept. Thx for sharing.

  16. @giuliaforsythe

    These are really fun examples. I think that definitely can help bridge the motivation gap. There’s still the expectancy piece around “can I do it?” which I’m sure can be difficult to overcome, especially if students have math anxiety. Look forward to text chatting with you today!

  17. @giuliaforsythe

    I LOVE SKIP! @draggin is the best. If you were ever to miss bookclub this is the best reason. I hope you let us know how it was, what you loved, and what you created!

  18. bccleva

    Hello Everyone,

    The winner of the Chapter Three prize draw is @Cloudsyl (Sylvia Riessner). We’ll be sending you your Chapters-Indigo card this week. Congrats and enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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