Faculty Evaluation and Coaching Department
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Keeping Students Motivated

Attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction (the ARCS) are keys to student motivation, according to author John Keller.

1. Keep your students’ attention by stimulating their curiosity and desire for answers and solutions to compelling problems.

  • Find ways to hook your students into the material, such as posting interesting visual examples or startling facts.
  • Ask a question or pose a problem, like a mystery that needs solving.
  • Mix it up by varying the activities, visuals, and pacing of each module.
  • Use active learning techniques. Break the class into small groups and assign them a task to engage the students with the topic.
  • Have students write key points or questions about what they just learned or were most interested in. This can relate back to the last module or the whole class.

2. Demonstrate the relevance between your course and what students want and need:

  • Frame assignment outcomes in terms of professional growth, allowing students to make connections between the skills they are learning and the industry.
  • Structure the classroom as a professional environ- ment. Ensure course activities, materials and projects connect to real-life situations.
  • Raise students’ awareness about their learning styles and the ways they learn best. Example: Do they work most efficiently with in-class activities that are cooperative, competitive, or individual?
  • Address a variety of modalities: lectures, videos, guest speakers, pair/group work, writing on the board, silent reading, changing seats or moving about the classroom.
  • Connect new material with information or skills that students already know using think-write-pair-share.

3. Build confidence by allowing students to feel successful even when the tasks are difficult:

  • Clarify what students are going to learn and how you will measure success.
  • Show work from former students and use rubrics to demonstrate various levels of success.
  • Build skill difficulty incrementally and allow for success at every stage. This can be as simple as an in-class task that focuses on developing one skill at a time.
  • Provide plenty of positive feedback. Spend time noting what students are doing well. Let weak students know that you believe they can improve with persistence.
  • Create a collaborative and supportive class environment that encourages experimentation by framing mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Give students additional opportunities to succeed, allowing them to revise and resubmit work that was completed on time.
  • Let students contribute questions to an upcoming test, have options on assignments or participate in generating criteria for their own grading rubrics.
  • If you learn that a passive, quieter student does something well, have them teach a few other students how to do it. Build up their confidence. Or pair them up with someone who is more outgoing/engaged.

4. Capitalize on student satisfaction to spur even more learning:

  • Tie projects into real-life, professional contexts and inspire them further by showing them what expert artists and designers are producing.
  • Incorporate opportunities for individual choice. Let students choose their own topic for a final project, photo shoot or poster, giving students some responsibility for connecting course material to their own interests.
  • Use positive feedback and rewards along with constructive criticism. Try sandwiching any negative feedback between positive comments.
  • Make sure that grading is fair and consistent and check in with students individually through- out the semester to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end. Using Easy Grade Pro can help you track student progress and provide them clear, official results.


John Keller’s ARC Model