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Motivating Our Students. Wei-Chien Lee, Ph.D. Counseling Services 924-5910; Objectives. Mutual learning: Best practices in motivating students. Gain knowledge and skills you can adopt for Motivating our students and ourselves.

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motivating our students

Motivating Our Students

Wei-Chien Lee, Ph.D.

Counseling Services


  • Mutual learning: Best practices in motivating students.
  • Gain knowledge and skills you can adopt for
      • Motivating our students and ourselves.
      • Promoting the well-being and self-efficacy of our students, family, children, etc.
  • Warm-up discussion.
  • Introduction: Why “Motivating”?
  • Recent research findings and skills:
    • Increasing self-efficacy.
      • Discussion and mutual learning.
    • Fostering the “mastery mind set” and “efforts.”
      • Discussion and mutual learning.
  • Conclusion and Additional Tools.
      • “Contextualizing.”
      • Developing Strengths.
informed consent
Informed Consent
  • We will focus on harvesting the pearls of wisdom from each other:
      • Take off our “editor,” “reviewer,” and/or “teacher” hat (just for an hour).
      • The effectiveness of any intervention is context-dependent.
  • Questions, contribution, sharing, and comments help us learn in different ways at different levels. No question or comment is “stupid.”
  • We will be curious, support each other, and have some fun, because teaching is …
1 think about a highly motivated student
1. Think about a Highly “Motivated” Student
  • What are some signs of a “motivated” student?
  • Now, how these signs would change if this student is:
      • First generation college student?
      • Latina/o, Black, Asian, or Native American?
      • Trying to support the family financially and emotionally?
      • Coping with a mental disorder?
  • Side note: “Being motivated” differ from “engaging?”
why choose motivating
Why Choose “Motivating”?
  • Correlates of academic achievement:
    • SES of parents.
    • Students and parental IQ.
    • Parental and peer influences.
    • Motivational factors.
      • We can do something about it, for promoting
        • Learning.
        • Social Justice and equal educational outcomes.
        • Performance.
motivational factors
Motivational Factors
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Attribution theory:
      • Success comes from ability or effort?
      • Ability is fixed or learned?
  • Achievement Goal orientation.
      • Learning goals vs. performance goals?
  • Interest theories.
  • Feelings of connectedness to classmates and teachers.
      • Have your cake and eat it – Take a break by asking a counselor to come to your class and conduct activities to foster mutual respect, connectedness, and teamwork.
  • Perceptions of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
  • Feeling of helplessness associated with learning.
      • Hit two birds with one stone: Show students you care by actively referring them to campus resources (see the “SJSU Student Success Resources” and “Spartan Success Workshop.”).
1 enhancing self efficacy

1. Enhancing Self-Efficacy


One’s belief in one’s capability to get things done successfully.

jackson 2002
Jackson (2002)
  • Research Question: Can one e-mail enhance students’ self-efficacy?
  • N = 132; 1st year college students from introductory psychology course.
  • Get extra credits by sending an e-mail to the professor.
  • 76 sent e-mail, and they were randomly assigned to (1) control group and (2) self-efficacy enhancing group.
Control Group:
    • “Thank you for your e-mail. You have been awarded the bonus point.”
  • Self-Efficacy Group:
    • Dear _____, I received your e-mail message and have awarded you the extra-credit point. Also let me take a moment and say thanks for doing such a great job on critical thinking assignment and for your thoughtful participation in class! You have exhibited good analytic skills, and you have shown that you understand and can apply the material. …Again, I would like to encourage you to study hard and work to improve your test score. I am sure you can do it! Good luck. Remember, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions
  • The e-mail improved the Self-Efficacy group’s self-efficacy and grade.
strong empirical support
Strong Empirical Support
  • Robbins et al. (2004).
      • Meta-Analysis.
      • Best predictors for GPA = Academic Self-efficacy X Achievement motivation.
      • (Study skills contribute to college outcome more than SES, high school GPA).
  • Brown et al. (2008).
      • Meta-Analysis.
      • f (Self-efficacy) = Academic performance and persistence.

Performance accomplishments


Vicarious learning

Perceived Self-efficacy


Emotional arousal


Verbal persuasion

Bandura’s Model of Perceived Self-Efficacy (Betz, 1992, p. 23)

2 focusing on effort

2. Focusing on “Effort”

The “Mastery-oriented” mindset.

to what extent do you agree
To What Extent Do You Agree:
  • “Intelligence is something you can’t really change.”
      • Strongly Disagree
      • Disagree
      • Neutral
      • Agree
      • Strongly Agree
cultural influences
Cultural Influences
  • Smart = ?
      • Movie: “Good Will Hunting”; “A Beautiful Mind.”
      • Fairy tales and stories:
        • Smart = fast, handsome, little efforts
      • Most tests are performance based, with a time limit.
      • Limited outlets and appreciations to different talents and abilities.
  • The symptoms of our students are the symptoms of our culture.
performance focused fixed mind set
Performance Focused/Fixed Mind-Set
  • Fixed mind-set:
      • Intelligence = Fixed trait.
  • Performance Goals:
      • Outcome = f (Ability).
  • Convey/Transmit through:
      • Culture – stories, sayings, media, role models..
      • Praise for intelligence: “You must be very smart.”
      • Heighten social comparison. Normal reference, valuing achievement…
      • Establish competitive academic standards.
      • Focus on performance instead of mastery.
performance focused fixed mind set21
Performance Focused/Fixed Mind-Set
  • Consequences:
    • Instill beliefs such as
      • “Work hard = Dumb.”
      • “Mistake/Error = Lack of ability/Dumb.”
      • “Smart = Success.”
    • Avoid or refuse to take on new challenges.
    • Setbacks or negative feedbacks =
      • Decrease in self-efficacy, aspiration, self-evaluation, and/or future performance.
      • Evidence of lack of ability  Not going to success.
    • Relationship, leadership, and communication problems.
learning goals mastery mind set
Learning Goals/Mastery Mind-Set
  • Emphasis on understanding and growth.
  • Intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work.
  • Transmit/Convey through:
    • Stories about effort and struggles.
    • Praise and acknowledge efforts. “You have worked hard on it!” “You must have put in a lot of efforts.”
    • Encouragement (not empty cheering). “It takes practices/several trials to….”
learning goals mastery mind set23
Learning Goals/Mastery Mind-Set
  • Consequences:
    • Instill beliefs:
      • Error = Need more effort.
      • Challenge = Opportunity to grow and learn.
    • Increase in performance, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and persistence.
    • Enjoy school work more and value school work more.
additional tool 1 contextualizing
Additional Tool: 1. Contextualizing
  • Instruction: (Instead of this  Say this)
    • Keys:
      • Focus on the correct subject – Not the student, but the behaviors.
      • Take the “U” (you) out and put the “BS” (Behavior and Skills) in.
      • Focus on helping students to achieve their goals.
      • Teach students what we all know really well – read the context.
  • Example:
    • “You are irresponsive!”  “This behavior was not effective in helping you achieve your goal of getting the grade you want in this class.”
additional tool 1 contextualizing26
Additional Tool: 1. Contextualizing
  • More Examples: Instead of this  Say this
    • “Bad writing.”  This writing style is different from the writing style required for this assignment. Here are the differences…
  • Practice:
    • “You need to be less shy!”
      •  “Speaking up in this class shows your interests and understanding in the subjects.”
    • “Why don’t you talk more in my class?”
      •  “It takes courage to talk in a class, and I would encourage you to try once.”
additional tools 2 strengths
Additional Tools 2: Strengths
  • How many different strengths in students can you appreciate?
  • Based on positive psychology.
    • Help students to develop, appreciate, understand, and use their strengths.
  • See the “Strength Quest” handout.