Ch. 3 Motivation

UQx LEARNx team of contributors


Motivating Students for Deep Learning


  1. Linking learner motivation to deeper engagement
  2. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
  3. Self-determination
  4. Growth and Fixed Mindset
  5. Self-regulation
  6. Attention Regulation
  7. The student-teacher relationship
  8. Alternative learning environments- The Walking Neighborhoo

A crucial element for deep engagement in learning is learner motivation. With this in mind, we might ask these four questions:

  1. How do we know if a learner is motivated?
  2. What kinds of factors motivate learners?
  3. How can we increase and sustain learner motivation?
  4. How is learning effected by a lack of motivation?

Linking learner motivation to deeper engagement

The emotional state of the learner.

  • Emotional competence
  • Interest and curiosity
  • Fun and challenge
  • Affective and physical safety

Professor Annemaree Carrol from the School of Education at the University of Queensland explores some of the factors of the emotional engagement component of the model and talk about adaptive and maladaptive factors which impact upon student motivation

  • Motivation for deep learning is social.

  • Motivation for deep learning is emotional, and it encompasses the self in the context of peers, classrooms, schools, homes and communities.

There seems to be a real connection to teachers and peers, a sense of belonging that creates interest and curiosity in their learning. But there is another essential ingredient – Emotions! Learning is both cognitive and emotional.

ANNEMAREE CARROLL: We know that the essential ingredient that enables motivation to facilitate deep student learning is engagement. And as educators, we are very aware of how important it is for our learners to be engaged.

Engagement has been defined as the extent to which students are connected to what they are learning, how they are learning it, and who they are learning from.

Engagement can be behavioral – concerned with attention, effort, persistence and participation. It can be cognitive — concerned with values and goals, or emotional — concerned with belonging to a group or interpersonal relationships.

Engagement can be perceived as the “hook” that captures students’ attention so that the students feel that the experience has value and relevance to their learning and their personal goals and needs.

It’s important to note that as engagement draws on behavioral, social, emotional and cognitive dimensions, engagement in one dimension relates to the level of engagement in another. It’s also important to note that one can be motivated, but not necessarily engaged in a learning episode. Andrew Martin’s Motivation and Engagement Wheel graphically represents the distinction between 11 cognitive and behavioral factors represented as adaptive motivation; adaptive engagement; maladaptive motivation; and maladaptive engagement.

Emotions drive our interests, motivation, and engagement. Immordino-Yang and Damasio define emotions as the perception of emotionally relevant triggers – either real or imagined – that trigger a physiological response leading to a behavioral and psychological outcome. Importantly, they tell us that

“the aspects of cognition that are recruited most heavily in education, including learning, attention, memory, decision making, motivation, and social functioning, are both profoundly affected by emotions and in fact subsumed within the process of emotion.”

  • Emotions impact a range of cognitive capacities, including attention, memory, problem-solving, decision making, information processing, thinking, and engagement. They affect interest, motivation, and social interactions.

  • Emotions and deep engagement in learning are highly intertwined.

For example, when the emotional experience associated with the level of engagement to learning is positive, the outcome is positive. But when the emotional experience associated with the level of engagement is negative, the outcome is negative. As such, when a learner is not emotionally engaged with the learning experience, learning is negatively impacted.

Emotional disengagement or disaffection with the learning context often presents as withdrawal from the learning experience based on anxiety, boredom, frustration or apathy.

If the learner finds the content boring, irrelevant, distressing, too difficult or too easy, they may become cognitively disengaged, as is evidenced through inattention, daydreaming, disruptive behavior and absenteeism. If they are cognitively disengaged, they are most likely to be behaviorally disengaged manifesting in the physical withdrawal of effort and participation.

  • A key emotional driver for deciding to engage is ‘Interest’.

Where there is increased value and relevance for the learner, there is increased interest, which moves the learning experience into the optimal performance zone for the individual, leading to deep engagement. When enjoyment and interest are combined, the overall effect is one of fun or pleasure, and this is an essential component of creative problem-solving and deep engagement.

The experience of positive emotions and an increased sense of fun has been shown to improve the capacity for creative and flexible thinking, increases persistence, supports the development of higher goals and aspirations, and opens our minds to a wider range of ideas, thoughts and actions.

Interest is essential to initiate and direct attention and exploration, and is fundamental to motivation. Interest is what predicts a learner’s decision to remain engaged in the task or activity. The experience of the positive affect associated with fun and pleasure enhances an individual’s capacity to broaden their perspective, explore possibilities and take creative risks. All are essential for deep learning!

 Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

How can it be that three students of the same age display such very different levels of motivation?

We know now that motivation is a very important factor in engaging students for deep learning, and that motivation can manifest itself in varied ways. But where does motivation originate? Are there different types of motivation? How does a learner’s mindset effect engagement in a task?

Dr. Julie Bower from the School of Education at The University of Queensland explores some of these questions. Taking from the theories (Ryan & Deci, 2000) of human motivation, human development and wellness, Julie explores self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2008) in relation to autonomous motivation and controlled motivation.

JULIE BOWER: What makes one student curious and open to challenge, while another certain that no improvement or growth can be made. It all comes down to the type of motivation.

In broad terms, motivation can be classified into two camps:

  • Intrinsic, coming from within, and
  • Extrinsic, originating from something external.

We can all identify examples of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in our everyday lives, and we know that these types of motivation feel very different.

Perhaps you’ve been reading a spy novel and you’re intrinsically motivated to finish the book, and find what happens to the main character. In this case, you have a genuine intrinsic interest in engaging with this task. But also, perhaps you are required to read documents for a work meeting the following day about a topic which holds little interest for you. Here, the motivation is to appear knowledgeable about the documents in front of your team, and perhaps for fear of penalty, feels very different.

  • True motivation involves intrinsically driven thoughts and emotions.

This contrasts sharply to motivation for external rewards, as outlined by Schunk and Usher (2012). What recent research tells us is that where there is true intrinsic motivation, providing extrinsic rewards actually reduces this intrinsic motivation.

The majority of classrooms operate on a system of extrinsic rewards and yet we know that children are curious about exploring their world and thus are already intrinsically motivated. A baby strives with all his might to take his first steps as he truly wants to walk. And not because there’s an external reward for reaching this milestone. That’s not to say that some forms of external motivation are not wholly appropriate.

  • The key factor here is whether extrinsic motivation is used as a method of control, or if the individual gains satisfaction from the extrinsic reward. That is, is the motivation autonomous or imposed? The baby may be internally motivated to walk in order to say reach a toy, but walking is not imposed on him as a means of control.

Intrinsic Motivation



Deci and Ryan in 2011 note that for autonomous motivation to be present, three needs must be in place. We must have a level of competence, connect with others, and have a sense of autonomy in our goals.

Teachers who provide opportunities for students to become self-determined and to enjoy a level of competence, have more motivated students. This is further explored in Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (2008). Based on theories (Ryan & Deci, 2000) of human motivation, human development and wellness, self-determination theory addresses the distinction between autonomous motivation and controlled motivation, as predictors of performance and outcomes. It’s important to note that both types of motivation direct and empower thought, but in very different ways and leading to very different outcomes.

Autonomous motivation involves both intrinsic motivation and some forms of extrinsic motivation that are integrated into ‘one’s sense of self’. Deci and Ryan described autonomously motivated learners as those who value and experience self-endorsement of their actions.

Control motivation on the other hand, consists of the external regulation of one’s behavior, resulting in the need for approval, avoidance of shame or punishment, or self-esteem contingent on the controlling factor.

Self-determination theory proposes three fundamental needs which must be met for motivation to occur.

  1. The need for autonomy,
  2. The need for competence, and
  3. The need for relatedness.

So what might this look like in the classroom?

Jang, Reeve and Deci (2010) suggest that autonomy supportive teachers, empower their student’s personal autonomy by empathizing with students’ perspectives. They identify and nurture ‘students’ needs’ their interests and their preferences, and they provide achievable challenges. They highlight meaningful learning goals, they present interesting, relevant and enriching activities.

Dresel and Hall in 2013, suggest that in facilitating students need for autonomy, students might be encouraged to set their own learning and behavioral goals, and choose the content or the process of some learning tasks. To assist with fostering ‘students’ needs for competence, teachers should provide clear, purposeful, specific and individualized feedback. As well as clear instructions and explanatory rationales for learning activities, a level of structure and guidance to model leadership and a range of learning activities that account for learning preferences and skills.

To facilitate the need for relatedness, teachers can ensure the inclusion of collaborative activities. They can build a positive rapport between students and the teacher, and they can make known that the progress of each learner is really valued by the teacher.

Fixed and Growth Mindset

With this theory in mind Carol Dweck has identified two types of mindsets.

  • A fixed mindset suggests that intelligence and ability is static and nothing can change what is biologically predetermined.
  • A growth mindset supports intelligence and ability as dynamic and ever-changing.

Growth mindset

Timothy Sifert’s (2004) research highlights that students who attribute success and failure to internal controllable causes, are more likely to feel pride, satisfaction, confidence, and have a higher sense of self-esteem. They’ll then choose to work on more difficult tasks, display greater self-determination and higher levels of cognitive engagement. They have a strong sense of control, they learn from their mistakes and they produce work that is of a higher quality. Such learners are intrinsically motivated. They exhibit a positive affect, they’re flexible and they engage deeply with the task.

Fixed mindset

Students that believe that their failure is attributed to uncontrollable factors are more likely to feel shame and will demonstrate reduced effort or cognitive engagement. They are performance, self, other and failure focused, and they view their self-worth as being tied to their performance, and as compared to the performance of others. They may engage in task avoidance, which comes from the wish to protect self-worth. But it’s not as simple as high ability students do well, and lower ability students do not.

We know that intelligence, achievement and motivation are malleable and subject to change. Learning oriented students understand this and they work to be task focused, in an optimistic manner. Students who perceive themselves as capable, are more likely to be self-regulating, strategic and metacognitive than students who do not.

Teacher talk in the classroom usually reveals an allegiance to either a fixed or a growth mindset, but Carol Dweck emphasizes the importance of teachers supporting a not yet mindset. Supporting a growth mindset for students can really increase motivation and self-belief, and ultimately deeper cognitive engagement.

Key Takeaways

This work is by Reid Wilson for elementary students is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Resources on Growth Mindset

To learn more about Growth Mindset go to the  Mindset Kit  website– and find a wealth of information and resources, including, lesson plans, videos, downloadable resources, and an actual “course” of information to teach you about growth mindset so you can use what you have learned with your students.

Also go to to learn more, including the research supporting growth mindset , teacher practices, case studies and more.


Professor Annemaree Carroll, from The University of Queensland, explores what self-regulation is and how this changes as a learner matures.

Click here watch this video lecture. (10:07 minutes)

Video summary:

ANNEMAREE CARROLL: How does a teacher know when a student is ready to move from a surface learning approach to enacting deep learning strategies? The ability to self-regulate is key.

Self-regulated learning refers to an independent and self-motivated process of acquiring knowledge and skills.

Research suggests that students learn best when they have the ability to self-regulate. In fact, the degree to which students become self-regulators of their own learning influences academic success at school. These maturational changes are most prominent in the brain’s frontal lobes which have long been associated with executive function. The executive functioning system is the control system of the brain that is responsible for regulating behavior and directing and controlling thinking activity to enable effective problem solving in both learning and social contexts.

These skills enable us to stay focused, remember instructions, make plans, control impulses, and take on multiple tasks successfully. These skills depend on three types of brain function which are highly interrelated and which draws on elements of the other:

  1. Working memory
  2. Mental flexibility
  3. Self-control

Working memory – we can think of this as the engine of the attention control system. It controls our ability to retain and work with pieces of information over a short amount of time. If a learner has poor working memory function the learner will have difficulty sustaining attention, will be susceptible to distraction; and will have difficulty performing other executive functions. These skills are crucial for learning and development and successfully negotiating social and educational contexts. They provide the link between early school achievement and social, emotional, and moral development. When remaining focused is not important to the task at hand, the executive functioning system goes into standby mode.

Mental flexibility is another brain function which determines our ability to sustain or shift our attention to different demands, and Self-control is the ability to set priorities, resist impulsive responses and monitor and correct performance.

We aren’t born with these skills, but we can develop them with the right amount of nurturing and exposure. For young children, being in environments that provide the scaffolding of these skills is essential to healthy development.

Both parents and teachers can:

  • Establish routines
  • Model appropriate social behavior
  • Demonstrate supportive and reliable relationships

It is also important for children to have opportunities to exercise these developing skills through activities that foster creative play and social connection. Young children who do not have opportunities to use and strengthen these skills naturally fail to become proficient. Those who have problems staying focused and resisting distractions, not only display difficulties in school, but also have trouble following directions generally, and this extends into their adolescent and adult years. Studying, maintaining friendships, sustaining employment, or managing difficult situations will provide challenges.

Although we are not born with these skills, we can first see signs of them around age two. By age three, most children can complete tasks that involve following two rules or actions and make deliberate choices. Five-year old’s have the ability to shift their attention from one rule to another and the capacity to block inappropriate responses.

It is especially interesting to note that by age seven some of the capabilities underlying executive functions show distinct similarities to those in adulthood. As learners’ progress through the teenage and adolescent periods, they further develop self-control by switching between a central focus and peripheral stimuli, and successfully adapt to changing rules in different contexts. But self-motivation tends to decrease with age.

Since motivation is an important factor in self-regulation, this may be why early-to-mid adolescence is a period of vulnerability to problems with self-regulation.

Gender differences in the skills for self-regulation are also apparent in school aged children. Girls have been found to be more conscientious, self-disciplined, have higher levels of academic self-efficacy and more able to self-regulate than boys. Typically, girls are typically less impulsive and more capable of regulating their emotional expression. This influences the classroom dynamic as girls are consistently perceived by teachers as being more self-controlled and self-disciplined than boys.

 We know that self-regulated learners display several features in their work.

  • They develop their own goals and choose learning strategies to meet these goals.
  • They employ techniques to monitor and evaluate their progress, and modify their learning when necessary.
  • They have the ability to self-regulate their behavior, thoughts and emotions, which leads to sustained focus and attention. This includes being able to slow or impede behavior, thoughts, and emotions which do not contribute to learning.

We know that motivation is a key sustainer of self-regulated learning. And with maturity comes a greater ability to self-regulate.

The learning may be occurring in relation to pre-determined goals set by the teacher, external examination of work and progress, and established learning strategies.

Italy’s first female doctor Maria Montessori developed an educational approach based on a constructivist model in the late 1800s. She recognized that self-regulation is an important indicator of healthy child development and that it could be enhanced over time.

Her philosophy and methodology has strong foundations in children’s self-regulation and independence. Students exercise a large degree of choice in Montessori classrooms balanced with a degree of task structure. Developmentally appropriate materials are placed around the classroom for a variety of hands-on tasks which encourage planning and organization skills, flow and concentration, and task persistence. In noting children’s capacity for being absorbed in a task, or in a flow state, large periods of time are provided for children to develop sustained concentration and attention which are important components of self-regulation.

External rewards are not a feature of the Montessori approach. Instead, children in Montessori classrooms are intrinsically motivated to learn through the completion of the activities, feeling a sense of pride, ownership, and accomplishment.

In working with older students and adults, Monique Boekaert’s three layered model of self-regulated learning examines three levels of self-regulation.

The three-layered model of self-regulated learning (BOEKAERTS, 1999)

Goetz, Nett and Hall describe the regulation of processing modes as the level that focuses on the learner’s ability to self-regulate according to desired learning outcomes and choosing the most appropriate learning strategies.

The regulation of the learning process level relates to overall metacognitive processes and the coordination of cognitive strategies, including planning and monitoring. The outer level relates to regulation of the self, including the ability to choose current and future activities and to remain motivated when competing influences intervene. Boekaert suggests that successful self-regulation is dependent on competency in these three levels.

  • The ability to be a self-regulated, independent, and flexible learner in today’s fast-paced, globalized, and knowledge-based world is essential.

Although some students exhibit difficulty with self-regulation, teachers can employ some very useful strategies to assist with developing independent learners.

Teachers can assist students to set realistic yet challenging goals.

  • Encourage students to be cognizant of their own behavior by observing and recording themselves for reflection.
  • Provide a range of instructions that students can give to themselves during the learning process.
  • Model how to evaluate achievement and modify strategies and goals if necessary.
  • Teachers should also provide frequent opportunities for students to practice self-regulating strategies and solve interpersonal problems.
  • It’s also important for teachers to improve their students’ attentional readiness through techniques such as breathing and mindfulness.

All of these strategies will lead to self-regulated deep learners in our classrooms.

Attention Regulation

The link between motivation and attention is strong and as we have learned and, deep learning is based on the foundation of attention regulation. Professor Annemaree Carroll, from The University of Queensland, provides her perspective on the finer details regarding attention regulation and deep learning.

Click here to watch video lecture (10:48 minutes)

Video summary:

Practical strategies teachers can use to develop attention leading to motivation for deep learning in the classroom:

How can teachers assist students when they display, low motivation for effortful work?

These students require considerable scaffolding of the use of helpful thinking, by raising awareness of their own thoughts and helping them to understand that their thoughts have a critical impact on their performance, feelings, learning and social behaviors.

The next step is to reframe these unhelpful motivational states by helping students to develop productive ways of thinking through positive self-beliefs, and looking for the importance, value and possible interest in the learning task.

Set children up for success by providing tasks of ‘medium effort’. ‘Big effort’ tasks are overwhelming and invite unhelpful thinking, off-task behavior, or work avoidance.

It is more helpful to provide two tasks of ‘medium effort’ than to give one ‘big effort’ task in supporting best efforts, persistence, and helpful thinking.

Teachers can prompt for attention and focused listening prior to giving an instruction and be aware of background noise and distractions.

A settling of physical activity is considered a defining feature of attention and reflective learning. Prompting children to check their physical activity and brain energy prepares them for listening.

Consider providing information or instructions in both verbal and visual formats where possible to help children retain key details. Images; graphs and charts; mind maps; visual schedules; step planners; infographics; and visual reference keys are all excellent models.

The cooperative liaison between home and school is particularly important to children’s learning of organizational skills and strategies. Daily organizational systems can be shared with parents. These might include organizing school bags with specific pockets for lunch, permission slips and library book; organizing schoolwork with color-coded books; or organizing desk and work area.

The use of step planners helps children develop a metacognitive perspective. Step planners outline all the steps involved in a task, reinforce verbal instructions, and reduce working memory demands. Step planners could be completed on the classroom whiteboard or a small whiteboard on a child’s desk, with an arrow or number to indicate each step.

In today’s world, the ability to focus is quite a challenge with so many competing distractions that are vying for our attention. Some say that we are living in a state of continuous partial attention and that our attention is in radar mode, divided by multitasking and distractions.

This brief sketch of the neural networks of attention serves as a baseline for understanding the critical importance of regulating student’s attention for classroom learning. With these important skills, students are attentionally focused and ready for deep learning.

The student-teacher relationship

Dr. Julie Bower from the School of Education at The University of Queensland introduces us to the power and potential of positive social relationships in learning contexts. This includes how learners engage with other learners, learners with teachers, teachers with teachers, and other relationships formed within learning contexts.

Click here to watch video lecture. (8:20 minutes)

Video summary

JULIE BOWER: What is it about that one teacher we remember so strongly that makes us feel either immense warmth and admiration or sheer dread when remembering how we learned about how to find the area of a triangle!

I came across a really powerful statement a number of years ago by Dr. Haim Ginott that has completely changed the way I walk into a classroom.

“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather…I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized”.

The student – teacher relationship is profoundly important in how students learn.

When the classroom is characterized by emotionally engaged teachers, there is a much greater chance that students will be actively engaged and deep learning will take place.

Meta-analyses by John Hattie indicate that the student-teacher relationship is absolutely paramount – the school context is a major source of social and cultural learning and the quality of the relationship that a student has with his/her teacher is an important factor in that student’s well-being and learning outcomes.

The teacher smiles, some laughter – a relaxed but structured atmosphere, students are respectful of a teacher’s knowledge about a subject, students feel comfortable sharing opinions, students know and accept teacher expectations, teachers treat students with respect. Cornelius-White (2007) conducted a meta-Analysis of 119 studies to identify these teacher-student relational variables.

The emotional connectivity of the teacher with the student, the student with the student, and the teacher with the teacher optimizes the classroom for positive learning experiences and outcomes.

Emotions drive our engagement with the world around us. They influence our decisions, how we interpret experience, and how we create memories. As educators it is imperative to leverage this emotional drive in our students if we want to impact student motivation for deep learning. Relationships are a crucial pathway for doing so.

Cooperative group learning and peer mentoring have been linked to positive social and academic outcomes, relative to individual or competitive tasks. Social emotions such as empathy, admiration, love, and compassion meet our basic human need to belong. So providing opportunities for students to work together, and for teachers to work together, can have important positive outcomes in schools.

Some fascinating research about empathy by Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang has shown us that being able to empathize with others actually increases neural activity in the brain. What her research shows us is that by engaging social emotions (such as empathy) where students experience meaningful learning and connect socially with others, they are actually using more brain processing capacity, enabling them to connect ideas, to remember these experiences longer term, and make meaning of their life experiences.

The Mindful Practice for Teachers program was developed with teachers for teachers. It provides an opportunity for teachers to work together on their own well-being and experience social emotions such as empathy. This program combines relaxation skills, self-awareness, mindful movement, and background knowledge about the effects of stress on the body and brain to assist teachers to self-regulate their emotions in the classroom. Teachers have found some really positive impacts on their daily teaching practice and their relationships with their students.

We know positive relationships are crucial to learning, but what steps can we take to build an environment where positive teacher-student relationships flourish?

  • Firstly, we must look after our teachers. Teachers need opportunities to plan together, to debrief, to make professional decisions, and to learn about emotions. Teachers need to be aware of the enduring effects that their own presence, empathy, and emotional states have on their students.
  • Secondly, we then need to create relaxed and respectful classrooms where students and teachers can engage meaningfully with each other for deep learning.
  • Thirdly, we must find the balance between helping students to find their strengths and challenging them to broaden their minds and build the capacity to think creatively about new and exciting concepts.

Emphasizing the importance of competition and performance outcomes, such as how much an exam is worth, might encourage the students to work hard, but it may also produce negative emotions.

Activities that promote interest, challenge thinking, and provide opportunities for success for all students, whether individually or collaboratively, are more emotionally engaging longer term.

Once we establish that emotionally positive educational climate, there are a number of strategies we can use to build positive student teacher relationships. For example, we can explicitly teach social and emotional skills for working together (for example managing emotions, mindfulness, social problem solving, being a good communicator, naming emotions, understanding how emotions and the brain work, finding personal strengths); we can provide opportunities for students to work meaningfully together towards self-set goals; periodically we can check in and see if the presentation can be made more creative or enjoyable, we can smile; we can provide a sense of predictability in the classroom to heighten students’ perception of control; we can clearly communicate expectations and performance demands; we can create a learner-centered classroom where learning is separate from testing; we can encourage students to become intrinsically motivated and self-regulated learners; and we can provide a degree of student choice in authentic learning tasks.

If we focus on building positive teacher-student relationships using these strategies, perhaps we will become that one amazing teacher that someone conjures up and remembers when reflecting back on what they have learned at school.

Alternative learning environments to motivate students

  • Walking Neighborhoods
  • PLACED-based learning and pedagogy
  • NH Example: The Wediko Experience

One of the factors for motivating students for deep learning that is often overlooked, is the powerful change that can occur when a variety of different learning environments are used. Dr. Melissa Cain from the School of Education at The University of Queensland is passionate about providing a range of alternative learning spaces and provides some ideas in this next video.

Click here to watch video lecture. (4:23 minutes)

MELISSA CAIN: When we think of learning environments, we often think of a classroom with walls; students sitting at desks and the teacher at the front of the room pacing back and forth. If we look around more closely, we realize that learning happens anywhere and everywhere. We start to see that there are an abundance of factors involved in preparing students for learning, engaging and motivating learners, and sustaining that engagement.

One factor that should be given consideration is inspiring students through working in alternative learning environments.

Even within the classroom, alternative learning spaces can be included. Arranging desks so that students can collaborate in small groups, providing a reading corner, and establishing a virtual learning environment are possible. A change in learning spaces with attention to the affective dimension of learning, can bring about changes in behavioral and pedagogical practices, and provide greater inclusivity for the diversity of learning preferences.

Alternative learning spaces can bring the community into the school or allow learners to develop a relationship with their local community. A change in environment can shift the focus of power, and bring the teacher and students closer together as co-learners. Often, it’s the outdoor learning space which is overlooked, but which offers great potential for engaging students in deep learning.

Changes in light, temperature, sound, air quality, and space can all affect motivation and engagement. Allowing students to engage with their school and community environments provides a different perspective to learning within four walls. Vegetable gardens, forest areas, outdoor spaces for reflection, planning and dialogue, as well as spaces to display artworks and perform should be considered as alternatives to the traditional classroom.

If students are involved in designing and creating these spaces they are even more effective. Lenine Bourke is the director of the Walking Neighborhood project (click) and Dr. Louise Phillips is a lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Queensland. Both are interested in alternative ways of learning, and promoting intergenerational civic engagement. In responding to young learners’ concerns about their lack of autonomy, Louise and Lenine formed a research partnership to provoke and promote intergenerational learning in public spaces. And the Walking Neighborhood project was born.

So far the project has explored neighborhoods in Brisbane, Sydney, and Bagot, Australia; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Seoul South Korea; and Koupio Finland amongst others. The Walking Neighborhood premise is simple – children lead adult audience members on a curated tour of places of the children’s interest in urban communities.

This facilitates a new way for adults to see and experience public places, spaces and buildings. Children are placed in control of developing the artistic experience, guiding an audience, navigating the physical space, and sharing their experiences of autonomy all the while creating new friendships with people they do not know.

Listen to the ways in which the Walking Neighborhood project encourages:

  • Learner motivation
  • Group collaboration
  • Trust
  • Community integration
  • Empathy

And provides alternative ways to present knowledge and findings through:

  • Alternative learning spaces
  • Student voice
  • Student choice
  • Student agency

These are critical factors in motivating for developing deep engagement competencies and reflect the principles of Universal Design for Learning. 

PLACED-based learning and pedagogy

Dr. Louise Phillips from the School of Education at The University of Queensland has been an integral part of The Walking Neighborhood project with its Director, Lenine Bourke. In this video, Louise discusses how deep engagement through ‘place based pedagogy’ is developed through projects such as The Walking Neighborhood.

Click here to watch video lecture (8:13 minutes)

New Hampshire Example of Alternative Learning Environments

The Wediko Experience

Watch this video to learn about the NH Fish and Game’s Aquatic Resources Education Programs, Let’s Go Fishing, the Watershed Education Program and the school that has implemented both into its curriculum.

[NHFishandGame}. (2017, Nov. 8). The Wediko Experience. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Berkeley’s Farm and Garden Based Learning Program 

[Berkeley Unified School District]. (2015, Jun. 23). Garden-Based Learning at Berkeley USD 2015. [Video File]. Retrieved from (9:28 minutes)


MacMeekin, Mia, (n.d.). 27 Ways to Encourage Intrinsic Motivation in Your Students Infographic. Retrieved from

‘UQx: LEARNx Deep Learning through Transformative Pedagogy. (2017). University of Queensland, Australia. Module 3: Motivating Students for Deep Learning.

In text citation: (UQx LEARNx, Module 3). In include specific authors as appropriate.

Cite videos in APA format. For example

[UQx LEARNx Deep Learning through Transformative Pedagogy]. (2016, Nov. 21). LEARN059 The Walking Neighbourhood. [Video File]. Retrieved from







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Ch. 3 Motivation by UQx LEARNx team of contributors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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