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Milligan, Teresa <[log in to unmask]>


Saundra Y McGuire <[log in to unmask]>


Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>


Wed, 2 Mar 2016 17:35:46 +0000





text/plain (329 lines)

Thanks so much for your post, and for the book endorsement. :)


Saundra McGuire, Ph.D. 
Author, Teach Students How to Learn (Info at
(Ret) Assistant Vice Chancellor  & Professor of Chemistry
Director Emerita, Center for Academic Success
Louisiana State University

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Milligan, Teresa
Sent: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 11:14 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Student motivation (or self-efficacy or self-advocacy)


I second the recommendation to watch Dan Pink's Ted Talk, and I highly encourage you to add his book Drive to your reading list as well. In a business sense, you might argue about the realistic chances of a) the honesty and work ethic required of the employees and b) the trust and risk-taking ability of the managers for these models to be effective; however, his research translates pretty well, at least on a conceptual level, to higher education. I also highly HIGHLY encourage checking out Leonard’s blog and ThinkWell LearnWell diagram, and Dr. McGuire’s book.

As is the case with many, if not most, college students, my students have been motivated to attend college to find a solution that involves a higher paycheck. This is a valid, logical motivation, especially if money is a need at the moment and indeed a solution to whatever prompted the original reason. Once money is no longer an issue, or if it is not the right solution, we still need something to get us up in the morning. Thus, Dan Pink’s intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.

As Nic points out, what’s interesting is how each of us fills in the blank: “I don’t care about ______” or “I don’t know how to _________.” How often do we assume that what motivates us also will motivate others? How often do we assume that what we value, which drives our motivation, is what others value? How quick are we to fall into our “expert blind spot”? This is especially true when what motivates us might be extrinsic, when what motivates students might be intrinsic. When students’ original motivation is intrinsic, they can be very limited and stubborn about what they do and don’t care about enough to learn how to do or not do. When those motivations become extrinsic, students are allowed to discover things they do care about and find an inherent worth in learning itself. Metacognition is powerful because it takes the daunting, uninteresting task of regurgitation and turns it into a thought-provoking, personal learning experience.

From my experience, students need to develop an identity as a professional in a respected field, not just as a paycheck-earner, to be able to see themselves within their learning. Alvin, the Confucius quote you have on your signature line speaks perfectly to this. The art is knowing that this takes time and maturity, neither of which may be readily available. Thankfully, we have many, many excellent resources in our learning center community who are passionate and willing to help for the sake of student success. That, in itself, is motivating for me!

As Dr. McGuire points out, the way we approach learning—as a means to a bigger paycheck, or as something more—provides us with a starting point for how we motivate students.

Teresa Milligan, MLE

Senior Instructor, Elftmann Student Success Center

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Leonard Geddes
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 9:59 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Student motivation (or self-efficacy or self-advocacy)

Good response as usual Nic! I think you’re hitting on a great point. I think we could assist students greatly if we would consider areas in which we’ve struggled to sustain motivation. This state of mind may take us beyond the common us “the motivated” vs. them “the unmotivated” viewpoint that’s common in education. The reality is that motivation is a fluid substance.

Here’s a link to a good Ted Talk on motivation that is rooted in recent research:

Here are some observations from my experiences.

More often than not, students lack of motivation and apparent apathy is actually masking their inability to do something. They display a “I don’t care” attitude to hide their actual “I don’t know how” reality. This is not limited to students; it’s a default posture for many of us. (I’ll speak for myself and admit that I’ve used it before.)

I used to believe that professors’ unwillingness to take any responsibility for students’ underperformance was a sign that these educators didn’t care about their students. However, I’ve changed my viewpoint. I’ve realized that they too default to an “I don’t care” attitude to mask their inability. In a rare show of honesty and vulnerability, a chemistry professor shared with me that when he sensed that he could not help his students achieve the results he wanted and that they needed, he did not know what to do. So he hardened his attitude toward them because it was the only way he could endure the long semester course. I’ve had many faculty members share similar experiences, so I suspect that this is more common than we think.

So back to the question at hand. Below are two different examples of how I’ve recently addressed “unmotivated students” situations. The first example combines empathy, visualization and strategic planning techniques to impact student motivation, and more importantly their success. The second example uses identity politics strategies to improve student-athlete’s motivation and performance.

While recently conducting a series of workshops at a small North Carolina college, I was informed/warned early on by an administrator that the college had an unusually high percentage “unmotivated” due to their loose enrollment standards. During my initial consulting visit, I got a sense that the administrator’s perception was broadly shared, even among students. So my first goal was to counter this belief by reminding them of the last time they were successful in a school setting and providing them an attractive plan of action. Below is an overview of how things transpired.

During my first workshop, led the students through an exercise that allowed them to unravel the reasons behind their pre-college success. In other words, I wanted them to visualize the last time they were successful in school. (I defined “success” as good enough to get you into a college, which was a much better outcome than many of their hometown peers.) I then showed them a feasible plan to increase the time they spend studying. There was much resistance initially as I had anticipated, but by they end they were astounded at how much time they actually had.

Now that time was settled, I demonstrated ways to use one my tools (The ThinkWell-LearnWell Diagram) as a visual framework and metacognitive tool to access the often imperceptible mental processes that are involved in abstract learning, how to differentiate their thinking skills, and how to apply these skills to at least one of their courses. (I was confident that if I could help them succeed in one course, then they would be motivated to apply them in others — success tends to breed more succeed.) I ended the session by challenging them to find a partner to hold them accountable to implementing the things we covered for three week. (Most of these hundred or so “unmotivated” students bought in.) It’s been about a month since I met with them. The institution recently shared with me the results of a survey they circulated that showed that many of the students had adjusted their study behaviors, reported gains in learning, increased interest in learning, and reported better grades.

There’s no magic here. By combining vision casting with a feasible, attractive solution (feasible and attractive by the students’ standards), these previously “unmotivated” students are demonstrating some fairly significant levels of motivation.

Another example played out recently at a mid-sized university in mid-west in which I was working with their student-athletes. The institution carried a very high number of football players on the team, and had historically struggled to graduate these players or even keep them eligible and enrolled. In August, I set up a program that incorporated the workshops series described in the article linked here: The team’s freshman GPA historically averaged between 1.9 - 2.1, but after the first semester of the program, the freshman cohort produced a 2.9 GPA, the highest among all sports, and unprecedented in the school’s football history. The coach was so excited and moved that he actually re-organized practices to emphasize the components covered in the article. The focus group data they shared with me was equally important. The majority of students expressed that they realized they enjoyed studying (No kidding!), and that they were now competing with each other academically. (The school also had it’s highest retention rate of football players in recent history.) In August many of these players explicitly expressed that they were in college to play football. Some of them reported that they were passed along during high school because of their athletic ability.

My approach to this homogenous group was to appeal to their identity as football players. I showed them how the academic skills they were routinely using in football were applicable in chemistry, math, writing, etc. They tried the methods, had success, and out flowed the motivation.

I hope one of these examples or the Ted Talk will help you effectively address this situation.

Leonard Geddes Business Owner, The LearnWell Projects

Tel: 1-866-337-3030 <tel:>

[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> | <>

<> <> <>

On 2/29/16, 7:49 PM, "Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals on behalf of Nic Voge" <[log in to unmask] on behalf of [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]@PRINCETON.EDU>> wrote:

I think it might be useful to think of these students not as ³unmotivated², when it is impossible to know that they have no motivation.

I don¹t think any motivational psychologist would say anyone is ever totally without motivation. I think it would be more useful to ask what motivates these students, or why they are not taking the actions they ned to learn or be successful. Many of us have mixed motivations we want something and yet we don¹t, we want the result, but not what it takes to get it, we want to succeed, but we don¹t want to try because we might fail. It could be that what you are observing is motivated inaction, not unmotivated students.




Dominic (Nic) J. Voge || Associate Director Undergraduate Learning Program McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning || Princeton University

328 Frist Center

(609)258-6921 ||

On 2/29/16, 4:39 PM, "Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals on behalf of Sharisse Turner" <[log in to unmask] on behalf of [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]@TCC.FL.EDU>> wrote:

"I don't want to get into any philosophical discussions about whether unmotivated students even belong in college or not. Fact is, they are here. We have admitted them. What can we best do to serve them? We have to educate the students we have -- not the students we might want or wish to have at a later time." I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE!!

At my institution, we require all students to enroll in a College Success course within their first 18-enrolled hours. Portions of the curriculum deal with study skills, time management, internal/external locus of control, etc.



Sharisse Turner, Associate Dean

Developmental Communications and College Success Tallahassee Community College

444 Appleyard Drive

Tallahassee, Florida 32304


[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

NADE Motto: "Helping underprepared students prepare, prepared students advance, and advanced students excel."

-----Original Message-----

From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alvin MaddenGrider

Sent: Monday, February 29, 2016 1:48 PM

To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

Subject: Student motivation (or self-efficacy or self-advocacy)

We always come back to this question:

How do we motivate some students to (1) value higher education, and (2) seek the help they need (study skills, tutoring, etc.)?

Are there best practices or successful programs in motivating at-risk/conditionally-admitted/underprepared/unprepared students?

We used to teach a short-course in study skills here which seemed to help, but it was slashed for budget cuts.

I don't want to get into any philosophical discussions about whether unmotivated students even belong in college or not. Fact is, they are here. We have admitted them. What can we best do to serve them?

We have to educate the students we have -- not the students we might want or wish to have at a later time.

If the above words seem familiar, I never thought I would paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld ("You go to war with the army you have -- not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time").

I continue to speak against mandating or "forcing" these students to attend tutoring. That only seems to lead to resentment and a waste of time and money.

Thanks if you can help.


Gentry Alvin Madden-Grider

Learning Strategies Coordinator

Morehead State University


Allie Young 215

"Those who do not study are only cattle dressed up in men's clothes." -- Confucius (551-479 BC)

This e-mail, including any attachments, is intended only for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed and may contain confidential information that is legally privileged and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are notified that any review, use, disclosure, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify me immediately.



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