Why you need a CARP to motivate your students
It’s not exactly news that motivation is the requirement for learning and one of the key elements of teaching – but still, many teachers struggle to motivate their students effectively and in the long term.
So, first, let’s do a quick recap of what motivation actually is: in general, motivation can be described as “the force […] to initiate behavior” (Petri et al.). Especially in school or university, most of the actions related to learning are goal-oriented, need effort and persistence, and distractions must be avoided. Motivation is the focus that keeps you on track. It’s the answer to the question “Why are you doing what you are doing?” – but motivation has different manifestations.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation – also called push and pull motives (Petri et al.) – are the two opposite poles. When you’re intrinsically motivated you carry out the action for its own sake (Rheinberg, Vollmeyer 176f.), but when you’re extrinsically motivated “the motive of the conduct lies outside the act itself” (Rheinberg, Vollmeyer 117), e.g. a good grade or social recognition.
Okay, now we know what motivation is – but how do we get our students and ourselves motivated?
What you need is CARP – no, not the fish, but these four components:
Competence Autonomy Relatedness Purpose
The CAR – competence, autonomy, and relatedness – is based on the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. Today, it is “the leading theory in human motivation” (“Self-Determination Theory.”). The broad framework contains six mini-theories that explain certain phenomena of motivation more explicitly. According to it, the three conditions an individual needs in order to experience “the most volitional and high-quality forms of motivation” are autonomy, competence, and relatedness (“Theory. Overview.”).
The following model explains the three components in more detail:
If you have been reading this blog carefully, you might have noticed that the last component of CARP is still missing – purpose.
Purpose is not part of the Self-Determination Theory but rather something I came across by myself:
A few weeks ago, I had to write a term paper for my seminar, and I was already running late with it – but as I was sitting in the library to write, I was unmotivated.
So, I checked all the parameters of the Self-Determination Theory:
I felt pretty competent because I had participated in the seminar, I already had done a lot of research on my topic and it was not my first time writing a term paper. I knew what I was doing. Competence check!
I also was autonomous because I could write whenever and wherever I wanted to, and I could choose the topic. Autonomy check!
And I felt related, too, because I had people with whom I could talk about my topic, and watching other students study in the library gave me a sense of togetherness. Relatedness check!
But still, I was unmotivated and could barely get myself to work on the paper.
What was the problem?
After a few days of basically doing nothing but constantly having the paper on my mind, I realized that something was missing:
I didn’t see my goal, the central theme in this term paper. I didn’t know where I was going with my writing. Of course, I knew why I was writing it in the first place. I needed to pass the course and I had a deadline to meet – but these external factors didn’t motivate me at all, they just kept me reminding that there was still a lot of work to do.
What I needed and eventually got was a motive that came from within the term paper. Something that made the paper itself meaningful and relevant – a purpose.
I am very sure that purpose is not only something I need to be motivated by but which applies to many other people as well. It is something very personal and sometimes it takes time to figure out what you want.
So, the take-away message for you is:
Use CARP – for yourself but also for your students to get motivated.
Whenever you are preparing a lesson just check these four components and try to find them in your lesson plan. In the beginning, it won’t be easy to implement all of them, especially purpose, which is a tricky one, but I am sure it will be worth it. CARPe Diem!
“Our Approach. Self-Determination Theory.” University of Rochester Medical Care, 2022, https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/community-health/patient-care/self-determination-theory.aspx. Accessed 5 May 2022.
Petri, Herbert L. et al.. “Motivation.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 31. March 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/motivation. Accessed 5 May 2022.
Rheinberg, Falko, Vollmeyer, Regina. Motivation. Stuttgart, Kohlhammer, 2019
“Self-Determination Theory.” Center for Self-Determination Theory, 2022, https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/. Accessed 9 May 2022.
“Theory. Overview.” Center for Self-Determination Theory, 2022, https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory/. Accessed 5 May 2022.
Pardon my language: Sehr geil😁