In her book Orientation to College Learning, Seventh Edition, Dianna L. Van Blerkom advises students: “Many factors contribute to your college success. One of the most important, though, is your commitment to the academic demands of your coursework. Getting motivated is critical” (p. 32). Without the personal motivation to pursue their academic goals, students may lose focus or become less likely to see things through to completion.

But what steps can students take to increase their motivation? They may find that their past attitudes can provide helpful insights that can be applied towards their future actions.

Van Blerkom’s activity, “Describe Your Motivation,” encourages students to review how they’ve engaged with academic experiences in the recent past, with the aim of identifying what drives the motivations that propel their future actions and decision. Armed with this knowledge, students can become aware of their current motivations, note the areas in which they need to increase their motivation, and ultimately better face the academic challenges and opportunities that are ahead of them.

The activity lends itself well to an in-class discussion; as students share their responses, they may gather additional ideas for increasing motivation from fellow students. You may also choose to invite students to write about this in their private journals as a reflective exercise.

List three academic tasks that you completed during the past few days. Then rank each task according to the level of effort that you made when completing the task. Use 1 to indicate a very low level of effort and 10 to indicate a very high level of effort. Did you make the same level of effort when completing each task? What factors were involved in your decision? Were any of the tasks boring or difficult? If so, did you complete them? If you did, what factors influenced your decision? (Van Blerkom, p. 32)

Reference: Van Blerkom, D.L. 2013. Orientation to College Learning, 7th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

How do you help students get motivated for the new school year? Share your strategies below, or submit them to thinktank@cengage.com.