Can We Increase Intrinsic Motivation in Our Students?

I don’t think anyone would argue with the assertion that as instructors, we want our students to be successful.  This doesn’t mean that we’re going to make our classes easy or pass folks who haven’t earned it.  However, one thing I struggle with frequently is motivating students to want to learn, to care about what I’m trying to teach them, and to prioritize their school work appropriately.  Professor Robert Krout blogged about student motivation back in late February and provided some tips on increasing motivation in the classroom.

Should the students motivation come strictly from the “reward” system in place or should it come from an internal drive to succeed?  You may have already caught on that what I’m referring to is intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation.  In my teaching and mentoring life, I’m still getting comfortable with these concepts.  There’s plenty of research that shows intrinsic motivation is tied to increased critical thinking, persistence, and retention.  If this is the case, how can we put the theory into practice in day-to-day teaching and course design?

While I don’t have the answer to this or a number of related questions, Professor Jonathan Stolk from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering will join us on May 6, 2014 to shed some light on the topic of intrinsic motivation. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Prof. Stolk joined Olin in 2001 and has become immersed in the world of innovative engineering education with research focusing on a number of topics including student motivation. He will be facilitating a hands-on engaged workshop for SMU faculty entitled Understanding and Supporting Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom from 9:30 – 11:30am in the Deason Innovation Gym of Caruth Hall (Caruth 106).  The workshop will include a hands-on design activity, an overview of motivation theory and self-determination theory, and a review of how well the traditional undergraduate course taps into intrinsic motivation of the students.

I hope you’ll consider joining us for the workshop.  If you’re interested in attending, please click here to register.

About Mark Fontenot

School of Engineering
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