Motivation And Engagement

For students to thrive and achieve at high levels, educators must embrace the content of the curriculum and the design of instruction. Both of these elements impact student attention, interest, motivation, and cognitive effort and must be considered in the design of assignments. Specifically, two key areas hold priority: choice and relevancy. Students must be given some level of autonomy and independence in their tasks, with rigor maintained across all options. And the tasks must be relevant by focusing on poignant topics, using real-world materials and experiences, and giving students the opportunity to make connections with their goals, interests, and values.

Guiding Questions

  • Are there opportunities for my students to bring their own ideas, experiences, and opinions into the assignments I give them? Is so, when and how often?
  • How do I bridge the known to the unknown for my students? Or how can assignments in my classroom offer students the opportunity to experience rigorous content — which may be unfamiliar or feel “foreign” — in a way that feels relevant for them?
  • When and how do I give students choices in their assignments that support their autonomy?

Questions for Analysis


Do students have choice in the assignment in one of the following areas: content, product, or process? Is rigor maintained across all options?

  1. No

  2. Yes

  • Choice in content:

    • Broad topics are provided by teacher; students can narrow/or specify the topic.

    • Content choices include self-selected texts or topics.

  • Choice in product:

    • Students are given a choice on how they will present their learning in genre, structure, or medium.

  • Choice in process:

    • Students may work alone or with their peers.

    • Students are given freedom to design their course of action and sequence their steps as they work on an assignment.

    • Students manage their timelines and deliverables, with teacher support provided as needed.

Is the task relevant? Does it focus on a poignant topic, use real-world materials, and/or give students the freedom to make connections to their experiences, goals, interests, and values?

  1. No

  2. Yes

  • Consider the relevancy of the assignment. Notice if it:

    • Focuses on a poignant topic (e.g., themes, essential questions, enduring understandings).

    • Uses real-world materials or pertains to real-world events.

    • Allows students to make connections to their own experiences, goals, interests, or values.