Examining What Motivates Students

Assignment for PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies


Part 1 of “Student Engagement Techniques” (Barkley, Elizabeth F. 2020) explains the concept of student engagement and what motivates student engagement.
The following quotes stood out for me:

“Motivation that is driven by social and psychological factors comes in two types: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation arises from internal factors such as personal satisfaction, interest, or enjoyment.

For students, if they are in college because they want to learn and want to become more educated, they are intrinsically motivated.” (Chapter 2, page 16)

“Motivation can also be extrinsic, which means it arises from external factors.

Extrinsically motivated students might do their work because they want good

grades or they want high-paying jobs upon graduation, or perhaps they are

just trying to satisfy their parents, not just because they want to learn.”
(Chapter 2, page 17)

These quotes caught my attention because they raised the question of what motivates us to engage in learning. Knowing the different forms of motivation should enable us to nurture these factors to help students learn and grow.


The difference in motivation between high school and a trade school program became clear to me once I started my trade school education shortly after graduating high school. I distinctly remember the different qualities of my motivation. Here the goal was not to complete the mandatory courses but to soak up as much information as possible to become accomplished in my chosen field. I see this intrinsic motivation to learn in most of the students in our College programs today, although in varying degrees.

Extrinsic motivation

Our trades education programs today focus on completing a packed schedule of skills to be learned to prepare students to complete the provincial exams mandated by the Industry Training Authority (ITA). Ultimately all students need to be motivated enough to complete these examinations successfully to become licensed. Most students succeed in this, some struggle.

Intrinsic motivation

Beyond preparing students for examinations, we are also preparing our young people for a successful and fulfilled life of working in their chosen profession. We are laying the groundwork for careers and to help people earn their livelihood. Students that can find intrinsic motivation, retain a natural curiosity and enjoyment of learning and develop a passion for continuing to learn new skills.

Fostering intrinsic motivation

In my research, I found an interesting paper called “The role of intrinsic motivation in the academic pursuits of nontraditional students” (Shillingford, Karlin 2013). It explores intrinsic motivation and how it can be fostered. One of the thoughts that I found particularly interesting was what we can do to foster intrinsic motivation. The paper concluded that positive remarks delivered in the right context are helpful in this.

“Rawsthorne and Elliot (1999) conducted a meta-analysis of intrinsic motivation experiments. They concluded that the results from those studies indicate that “the undermining effect of performance goals relative to mastery goals was contingent on whether participants received confirming or non confirming competence feedback and on whether the experimental procedures induced a performance-approach or performance-avoidance orientation” (p. 333). […] Thus, this suggests that positive rewards can impact intrinsic motivation.”


Parallel to my own experience, I see a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn new skills in most of our trades students, especially in the foundation classes. It seems to me that the majority of students that are excited about their choice of the course tend to pull the ones up that are still in “high school mode” and come to class because they have to. I am hoping that in this course and the PIDP program I will learn more about how to help students learn, discover and find motivation. If I can help my students to develop and nurture curiosity and intrinsic motivation I can help them be successful, not only in their apprenticeship but also in their career and other areas of their lives.


As mentioned before, simply because of the pressures of meeting the ITA exam schedule, we have to point out the necessity of staying motivated to our students. Therefore the element of extrinsic motivation is always present. “You have to study this material to pass the ITA exam.”

Knowing about the importance of intrinsic motivation I will explore more of this area. I am interested to learn how to motivate individual students. Our students come from very different backgrounds in terms of socio-economic factors but also age, experience, education and cultural background. In the Women In Trades and Technology program, where I teach, I have the opportunity to help women to explore what trade they want to go into. Knowing how to motivate curiosity and learning can help these students make the right decision.


Barkley, Elizabeth F. Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, 2020 / Pages 16 – 17

Shani Shillingford, Nancy J. Karlin / Article in New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development · July 2013: The role of intrinsic motivation in the academic pursuits of nontraditional students. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264654665_The_role_of_intrinsic_motivation_in_the_academic_pursuits_of_nontraditional_students  

Other sources on this topic

Vanderbilt University, Motivating Students by Chelsea Yarborough and Heather Fedesco. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/motivating-students/#self

How We Are Preparing the Next Generation | Matt Stewart | TEDxFurmanU / YouTube https://youtu.be/ZjZHVBGLs00

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