Putting Motivation Science to Work

Motivation was the theme of a three-hour workshop on using research-based strategies to enhance instruction, and it motivated 65 faculty members at Appalachian State University to attend. They gave high marks to the session “Learning Matters: Applying Research-Based Strategies to Motivate Students” conducted by Dr. Brett D. Jones, professor in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech.

The focus of Jones’ presentation was the MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation. In 2009 Jones drew from decades of motivation theory and research to develop his comprehensive approach, which helps instructors better understand how current motivation theories and research can be applied to instruction. The components in the MUSIC model are critical to student engagement in academic settings. They include:

eMpowerment – the degree to which a student believes that he or she has control of his or her learning environment in the course

Usefulness – the degree to which a student believes that the coursework is useful to his or her future

Success – the degree to which a student believes that he or she can succeed at the coursework

Interest – the degree to which a student believes that the instruction methods and coursework are interesting or enjoyable

Caring – the degree to which a student believes that the instructor cares about whether the student succeeds in the coursework and cares about the student’s well-being.

In the workshop, Dr. Jones demonstrated how participants could use this model in their classes, and on the evaluation instrument, the vast majority indicated that they will use strategies suggested by the MUSIC model in future classes. 

Strategies popular with the participants included giving students more choice in assignments (eMpowerment), linking course content with students’ future professional work (Usefulness), providing tips for succeeding in this course (Success), varying the format of classes (Interest), and coming to class a few minutes early to interact informally with students (Caring).

“Professors often experience problems related to student motivation,” said Dr. Kate Brinko, director of faculty and academic development at Appalachian. “This session was design to help instructors think about how they can use motivation science to make changes in their classes, activities and assignments that will lead to increased learning.”

The motivation workshop was offered as part of UNC College STAR (Supporting Transition, Access and Retention), a project of the UNC system designed to support students with learning differences and to disseminate best-practice teaching methods to faculty members for promoting the success of students of varied learning styles and backgrounds.

College STAR is currently funded by the Oak Foundation of Geneva, Switzerland and the N.C. GlaxoSmithKline Foundation.