Motivation to Learn: Transforming Classroom Culture to Support Student Achievement


Michael Middleton & Kevin Perks

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  • Classroom Insights from Educational Psychology Series

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    Eight Myths of Student Disengagement: Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning

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    Motivation to Learn: Transforming Classroom Culture to Support Student Achievement

    Michael Middleton and Kevin Perks


    View Copyright Page

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Amie Brown
    • Teacher
    • Floyd County Schools
    • Rome, GA
    • Charla Buford Bunker
    • Literacy Specialist
    • Great Falls Public Schools
    • Sun River, MT
    • Margarete Couture
    • Elementary Principal
    • South Seneca Central School District
    • Interlaken, NY
    • Melanie Mares Sainz
    • Academic Coach
    • Lowndes Middle School
    • Valdosta, GA
    • Lauren Mittermann
    • Social Studies Teacher, Grades 7 and 8
    • Gibraltar Secondary School
    • Fish Creek, WI

    About the Authors

    Michael Middleton is an associate professor and chair of the Education Department at the University of New Hampshire where he researches the relation of classroom and culture to adolescent identity and motivation in diverse community settings. Currently, he holds the John and H. Irene Peters Professorship in Education to support his teaching, research, and service and has been a recipient of a UNH Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. Primarily, his teaching focuses on the preparation of educators to meet the complex demands of classroom teaching. Early in his career, Michael was a high school mathematics teacher working with at-risk youth. He currently lives in New Hampshire with his son.

    Kevin Perks is a program and research associate with WestEd who works with schools and districts across the country to support motivation, engagement, and achievement in such areas as standards-based education, literacy, and educational reform. Most recently, Kevin has been working with districts to support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards across all content areas. Kevin began his career in Ohio where he taught at a private school dedicated to addressing the needs of underserved learners with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Since then he has taught a variety of subjects from K-12 to the university level. Kevin currently lives in Maine with his wife and daughter.

    I am dedicating this work to my family and to the teachers and colleagues who have profoundly influenced my life. The memory of my parents has been the inspiration for me to overcome challenges and to serve our communities. My son Daniel, nieces Kate and Hannah, and nephew Harry teach me each day about love, learning, and motivation. Finally, my mentor and friend Carol Midgley was an inspiration for her tireless work on improving schools for all our children.


    I would like to dedicate this book to the numerous teachers who helped me to find my own motivation, and to those willing to share their stories. In particular, I dedicate this book to Celia Millward, my daughter's namesake. To George Hillocks who nurtured my passion for teaching and learning early in my career. To my coauthor, mentor, and friend Mike who, even when I was a student of his, always treated me as a respected colleague. To my parents and my brothers who, since the day I was born, modeled a love of learning and the importance of hard work. To my colleagues at MSAD 60 who continue to challenge me to do my best, especially Kate and Heidi. To my wife Jessica, whose patience and kindness I strive (and often fail) to emulate. And finally to my daughter Celia, who teaches me more than I can ever hope to teach her. To quote singer/song-writer Lori McKenna, “I think it's fair to say kid, you taught me right.”

  • Appendix: Strategy and Practice List

    4WH FrameworkPromoting Student Voice
    Capstone ProjectsDesigning Meaningful Tasks
    Communicating Clear Learning ObjectivesPromoting Challenge With Success
    Connecting Students to Experts and ProfessionalsDesigning Meaningful Tasks
    Democratic GovernancePromoting Student Voice
    Demonstrations and ThinkAloudsPromoting Challenge With Success
    Dialogue FoldersBuilding Positive Relationships
    Entrance TicketsPromoting Student Voice
    Exit TicketPromoting Student Voice
    Feedback PromptsBuilding Positive Relationships
    Feedback QuestionsPromoting Student Voice
    Fist to FivePromoting Student Voice
    Fluency ChartsBuilding Positive Relationships
    Four-Phase Model of Interest BuildingDesigning Meaningful Tasks
    Green Light SurveyPromoting Student Voice
    Group NormsBuilding Positive Relationships
    Guidelines for Clear DirectionsPromoting Challenge With Success
    Keep Your WordBuilding Positive Relationships
    Knowledge Rating ChartsPromoting Challenge With Success
    Linking Classroom Work to Students' GoalsDesigning Meaningful Tasks
    Making Learning VisibleBuilding Positive Relationships
    Models and ExemplarsPromoting Challenge With Success
    PreassessmentsPromoting Challenge With Success
    Project-Based LearningPromoting Student Voice
    Putting It in WritingBuilding Positive Relationships
    Referencing Learning ObjectivesPromoting Challenge With Success
    Relevance MappingPromoting Challenge With Success
    Service LearningPromoting Student Voice
    Simulating Work Outside of SchoolDesigning Meaningful Tasks
    Student-Centered Discussion ProtocolBuilding Positive Relationships
    Task-Grouping StrategyBuilding Positive Relationships
    Think-Pair-ShareBuilding Positive Relationships
    Three-Minute WritingPromoting Challenge With Success
    Time to WritePromoting Challenge With Success
    Value-Oriented QuestionsPromoting Challenge With Success

    Glossary of Key Terms

    • Choices—Options that teachers give to students in an attempt to promote student voice
    • Classroom culture—The values for learning, beliefs about how to learn, reasons and purposes for engaging in academic work, and the rules about how to behave and work together experienced in a classroom
    • Collaborative learning—An instructional approach that encourages students to collaborate with teachers on instruction and assessment where students may help to set goals, coplan, make decisions about processes and strategies, and ultimately accept responsibility for products and learning outcomes—also includes coguiding group processes and helping to facilitate activities
    • Engagement—The attention, behaviors, and efforts indicating involvement in a learning activity
    • Feedback—Information provided to individuals about their work and progress that they can use to improve and regulate their learning
    • Flow—Moments when individuals experience high levels of challenge, cognition, and engagement within a task, and pleasant emotions at completion; Group flow—the experience of flow among a group of individuals working together
    • Formative assessment practice—Informal methods of gathering data about and providing feedback to students about their learning during classroom instruction
    • Instructional feedback—Refers to information students give a teacher about instruction that can help the teacher improve teaching practices
    • Learning objectives—Specific outcomes of learning that measurably define what students are expected to be able to do and know
    • Mastery goal—Engaging in academic work for the purpose of developing or improving competence
    • Meaningful learning—Learning that individuals want to engage in because it is perceived as being interesting, useful, or having social value
    • Mindset—The way an individual views and or approaches specific tasks. (An individual with a fixed mindset believes that his or her abilities tend to be fixed or non-malleable and will determine success on a given task. Individuals with a growth mindset believe that abilities can improve and are the product of effort and growth.)
    • Motivation—The energy that can lead to activity or engagement directed toward a goal; motivation to learn is the activity between students and teacher as they engage in the work of their classroom
    • Optimal challenge—Tasks that are well matched to a student's knowledge and skills and are perceived by the student to be meaningful, as well as not too easy and not too hard
    • Pedagogical content knowledge—The intersection of content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge in which a teacher understands effective ways to promote student learning of specific content using strategies, examples, and activities particularly suited for that content
    • Pedagogical motivation knowledge—Knowledge that requires the teachers to understand the motivational and affective qualities that students bring into the classroom and make instructional choices that build on those student qualities
    • Performance goal—Engaging in academic work for the purpose of demonstrating or proving competence
    • Self-Efficacy—A learner's belief about his or her competence on a task; Collective efficacy—The judgment or belief that the group of teachers in a school can be effective with their students and promote student success
    • Signature practice—A repeated learning activity that requires deep engagement, collaboration, and sometimes the public exhibition of work; such signature practices at the classroom or school level may tap into the motivational energy of students before they even enter the classroom in anticipation of this shared, meaningful work
    • Student voice—Refers to opportunities students have to shape and influence decisions in their learning
    • Task value—The importance placed on succeeding at a task based on interest in, importance of, or utility of the task
    • Teacher stance—The way in which teachers prepare to act in accordance with their beliefs


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