Motivation and Engagement

Motivation and engagement: every minute of every day matters

How much does student motivation and engagement change over the course of a day, a week, and a month at school? How much does motivation and engagement vary from student to student?

We sought answers to these questions in a recent study published in the journal, Learning and Individual Differences.

Three times a day, five days a week, for four weeks, we tracked 20 high school students.

Students were asked to rate themselves on the motivation and engagement factors in the Motivation and Engagement Wheel (see figure below) using their mobile devices. For each factor, they responded to questions on a one (Strongly Disagree) to seven (Strongly Agree) scale, in the morning, the middle of the day, and again in the afternoon.

What is motivation and engagement?

Motivation is students’ energy and drive to learn, work effectively, and achieve. Engagement is typically seen as the behaviours that follow from this energy and drive.

The motivation and engagement factors in our study were those in the Motivation and Engagement Wheel – assessed using the short version of the Motivation and Engagement Scale (Martin, 2014).

The wheel is separated into:

  • Positive motivation (self-belief, learning focus, valuing);
  • Positive engagement (planning behaviour, task management, persistence);
  • Negative motivation (anxiety, failure avoidance, uncertain control);
  • Negative engagement (self-sabotage, disengagement; coded red as these factors are substantially more problematic than negative motivation factors).
The motivation and engagement wheel

The Motivation and Engagement Wheel (reproduced with permission from Martin, A.J. and Lifelong Achievement Group; download from

Why does change in motivation and engagement matter?

Whether a student’s motivation and engagement changes through the course of a day, week, or month at school has significant implications for teachers.

If these factors are relatively stable across this period, this suggests it is more a trait of the student and not something that varies in response to different subjects, teachers, activities, and tasks. That is, it might suggest there is a fixed motivation and engagement ‘set-point’ for each student that will not change much from subject to subject, class to class, or task to task.

However, if motivation and engagement is somewhat variable through the day, then this tells us it is very important to identify factors or events that are causing this shift.

A similar question concerns variability from student to student. If there are relatively few differences between students, then motivation and engagement would seem to be something that is stable and not something that would benefit from instructional attention. However, if there are significant variations, then clearly there are some students who may need additional support.

Change in motivation and engagement matters because these factors are related to learning, achievement, and enjoyment of school. Thus, the extent to which we can boost motivation and engagement has direct implications for the extent to which we can boost learning, achievement, and enjoyment.

What did we find?

From our research, we found two major patterns among students.

First, there was far more variation in motivation and engagement throughout the school day than between school days and weeks. Initially we thought this may be due to the time of day; for example, rising from the start of the day to the middle of the day, then declining in the afternoon. But, this was not the case.

Instead, it depended on what the students were doing (for example, the class they were in, the teacher they had, the task they were performing.).

Our second major finding was that there was substantial variation in motivation and engagement between students. In fact, drawing on previous research (Martin et al., 2011), there is far more variation in motivation and engagement from student to student than there is from class to class or school to school.

by Andrew Martin

Read the entire article and links at;




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