Motivating Learning Opportunities

Recognizing the research on intrinsic motivation, MCL leaders and learning facilitators build a culture for learning. Building a growth mindset culture, offering diverse learning formats, meeting learners at their optimal learning level and style of learning, providing choices and meaningful feedback on learning that takes place anytime and anywhere, are all contributing factors when designing motivating learning opportunities.


The ability to design motivating learning opportunities requires a unique understanding of motivation. As we mentioned in the Shifting the Mindset Component, building a growth mindset culture is essential to the successful implementation of customizing structures and the Ideal Learning Experience. We understand growth and fixed mindsets from Carol Dweck’s work in “Mindset The New Psychology of Success”. Dweck’s mindset work has directly impacted the ability of our schools to build and adopt a culture focused on learning.

Our Collaborative for Customized Learning has also studied a variety of researchers who have developed theories of intrinsic motivation. Edward Deci’s theory about Autonomy or Compliance, “Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation”, Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, and Marzano & Pickerings “The Highly Engaged Classroom: The Classroom Strategies Series” are all resources we have used to build our understanding of intrinsic motivation.

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With this understanding, we have the tools to design motivating learning opportunities that build in strategies like choice, demonstrating learning in multiple ways, meeting learners where they are in their learning, allowing them to move at their own learning pace, connecting with their interest levels, etc. 

Our Collaborative learning facilitators/teachers claim that once they build this culture AND shift to a focus on learning their learners are much more engaged and own the future of their learning. They also report that when they adopt our 3 Circle Model (described under our Quality Instruction Component) of complex reasoning, content knowledge, and habits of mind, their learners show a new excitement about their learning.

After several years of observing MCL implementation classrooms, Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey described what they witnessed as the “MCL Power Sequence”

Notice in this sequence the first step is to build a system where meeting learners at their level of learning becomes a priority. Make no mistake, this is a big step and requires the implementation of important customizing structures, but it is well worth the effort. 

In Bea McGarvey’s MCL Learning Path Series, she addresses the research on motivation in her “Shifting the Mindset Learning Path Series”. Our CCL Consortium/Induction project includes McGarvey’s learning paths series which gives us an excellent resource when working with new MCL Implementers. 


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