Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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12. Expectations for Success - Motivation and Learning

Session Content Outline

Key Questions
  • What motivates us to learn?
  • How can teachers create motivating learning environments?

Learning Objectives
  • Influences on motivation – Teachers will understand motivation as something constructed by both teacher and students. Teachers will learn how students' expectations for success and interests in learning can influence motivation.
  • Motivating learning environments – Teachers will understand the characteristics of learning environments that enhance students' motivation, including building on students' interests and strengths, offering choices, encouraging risk taking and improvement over time, and minimizing competition and comparison.

Session Outline
  • Motivation to learn is more than simply excitement about a particular topic. Rather, being motivated to learn refers to the degree to which students are dedicated to and engaged in learning. A willingness to think through problems and work through challenges to achieve mastery of a concept or skill goes beyond simply having fun during learning.
  • Teachers can make learning more accessible to students. These practices include at least the following:
    • enhancing students' expectancies for success by choosing tasks at an appropriate level of difficulty, scaffolding student learning, and communicating high and equitable expectations for all students
    • enhancing students' interest and the value of the material being studied by relating classroom work to students' experiences, offering choices, and assigning varied and interesting tasks that are active and authentic
    • creating a supportive learning environment that emphasizes learning and encourages risk-taking, not just getting the right answers; stresses improvement over time and provides opportunities for revision; and minimizes competition and comparison

Expectations for success: Can I do this?
  • Students who have confidence in their abilities to succeed on a task work harder, persist longer, and perform better than their less efficacious peers.
  • Contributions to students' expectations for success:
    • students' beliefs about intelligence and their capacity to improve their intellectual abilities
    • teachers enhancing students' expectations for success
    • students witnessing their own progress
    • teachers communicating that all students can succeed and then enabling them to succeed

Interest in learning: Do I want to do this?

Students' interest in learning is influenced at least by the following:

  • Students are more likely to be interested in a task that they find personally relevant or valuable.
  • Students are more likely to find an assignment interesting if they have a say or a choice in what they get to work on.
  • When teachers stress ideas instead of disconnected facts or procedures, they create room for students to explore and pursue their own curiosities.
  • When introducing a new abstract concept, or a complex concept, a teacher can help students understand better by drawing on experiences and concepts that are already familiar to them.
  • Students are more interested in tasks that are more realistic and challenging.

The Learning Environment: Is Learning the Primary Focus?

Characteristics of a classroom environments that supports learning:

  • Through their choice of tasks, approaches to instruction, and verbal interactions with their students, teachers communicate the goals of learning and how to be successful in their classroom.
  • The class focuses on activities designed to help students understand concepts, improve their thinking and analytical skills, and concentrate on a particular topic. The goal is to learn and gradually improve.
  • Goals are task-oriented, rather than ability-oriented.
  • Teachers help students focus on mastering concepts and skills by minimizing social comparisons in the classroom.
  • Teachers provide clear criteria on which their work is being evaluation. Feedback is frequent and mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn.
  • Students have opportunities to learn at their own pace and are able to recognize when they might need extra help.
  • Students feel that their teachers support them and care about them as individuals.


Students may enter the classroom with certain beliefs about themselves, but in a supportive classroom, teachers have opportunities to help them gain self-confidence and enhance their motivation to learn.

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