Tasks, Recognition, and
Evaluation for Optimal
Engagement and Motivation
Meaningful cognitive demands of formal education cannot be mastered through passive listening and reading, nor through being entertained; they require an engaged student.
—Newmann (1992, p. 14)
A classroom where students are engaged or involved does not just happen. The previous chapter established the importance of the social context for fostering student engagement. This chapter focuses on the motivational characteristics of three instructional variables that foster student involvement in learning: (a) learning tasks and activities, (b) incentives and recognition that promote and recognize student engagement, and (c) motivational effects of evaluation (C. Ames, 1992). These three variables form the core of classroom instruction affecting students' beliefs about their own ability, their willingness to apply effort, their goals, and, consequently, their engagement in learning. Educators can influence student goal orientation toward learning by emphasizing these three instructional variables (Urdan, 2001). How these variables are used determine the extent to which the classroom supports a learning or performance orientation or intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.