Motivation, Expectations, and Value

Written by Sue McGregor

 At the beginning of every school year, I like to think about the experimentation that I want to try in my instructional practice.  Here’s an idea that may spark some experimentation in your own practice: Are you familiar with the Motivation Equation,  M = ev? This theory (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000) posits that learners will be motivated to engage in tasks if they have an expectation of success and find value in the task.  This idea could have a profound impact on the learners in your classroom and is worth considering as you begin to plan your first weeks of the new school year. There are a number of ways that a teacher can communicate to students that they can expect to be successful in class this year.  Start small: 

  • You can experiment with how you frame the day’s learning for students: how you develop and unpack the learning target with your students influences their expectation for success; 
  • How you develop and communicate the criteria for success for a task influences whether students can expect to be successful on a task. 

  And one way we can help students find value in the tasks that we ask them to engage in is by using interest surveys; find out what matters to your students. When you know what is important to your students, their passions, the demands that they have outside of school, how they prefer to learn, obstacles to their learning, family situations, special skills and talents they possess, then you have the opportunity to plan learning experiences that tap into those interests and dreams. And students find that those experiences have value for them. The work we do every day is extraordinarily complex.  Sometimes, at the beginning of the year, it’s helpful to take a moment away from counting textbooks, or setting up classrooms, or creating bulletin boards to think about our practice and commit to experimentation that will have a lasting impact on our learners.

Sue McGregor is an RBT consultant.  Read more here.