Motivation and the desire to learn

A boy in a classroom. Photo: Morten Brun.

Teachers and school owners face choices every day about how they should make provision for maintaining pupils’ natural curiosity and motivation to learn.

Motivation and the desire to learn depend on the answers pupils give to three questions, says professor Edvin Bru at the University of Stavanger (UiS).

Having spent many years researching what motivates children and young people to learn and related topics, he defines the answers to these three questions as crucial for motivation:

  • Can I master the learning assignments?
  • Are the learning assignments meaningful or useful for me?
  • What sort of school-related expectations do I meet from people who are important to me?

A supportive learning environment is essential if pupils are to believe that they can manage learning assignments. This environment is characterised by:

  • Specific short-term teaching goals based on the pupil’s level of competence
  • Positive expectations that the pupil can manage the assignment
  • Constructive feedback based on the pupil’s learning goals
  • Little comparison of performance between pupils.

Learning is an active process which occurs between teacher and pupil and between pupils and it is stimulated through this social interaction. Schools with good learning environments also tend to have good learning results (see White Paper 20 (2012–2013), in Norwegian only).