Motivate Students with Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness, and Relevance

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

A special thanks to Rick Kralevich for sharing a great piece from Edutopia with me. In Strategies for Helping Students Motivate Themselves, Larry Ferlazzo offers practical ideas for increasing student motivation. He classifies his tips according to four qualities of a highly motivating classroom: autonomy, competence, relatedness, and relevance.

Ferlazzo offers a host of actually implementable strategies, but I’ll just share my favorite from each of his four categories.

Autonomy. Use “thinking routines” regularly to promote metacognition. This consists of asking “What is going on here?” and following the student’s answer with “What do you see that makes you say so?”

Competence. Give feedback using Pixar’s (yes, the animation studio) method known as “plussing”. Instead of focusing comments on the negative, highlight a strength and then push students to the next level by using “and” or “what if” rather than “but”. I really like the point you make in this paragraph about the author alienating his audience through his harsh tone? What if you also gave a few examples from the text that illustrate his tone and explain how you think different audiences would react to them?

Relatedness. “Smile, joke, and sometimes make a light, supportive touch on a student’s shoulder”. ‘Nuff said.

Relevance. Ferlazzo shares some research that found that having students write a paragraph to connect what they are learning to their own lives “led to positive learning gains, especially for those students who had previously been ‘low performers'”.

Those are my top four. Check out the full article (which really isn’t too long) by clicking here.

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