Purposeful and Motivated Learners

Two young girls deeply engaged in their learning.
Sustaining focus on the learning goal. Source: Klimkin from Pixabay

To develop purposeful and motivated learners, educators provide multiple ways to engage their learners. One of these ways is to provide options to help learners sustain their effort and persist with their learning. Checkpoint 8 in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework covers this point.

The framework explains that learners require support to remain focused on the goal they are striving towards, and its value. This is the learner to sustain effort and concentration in the face of many distracters. General suggestions, relevant to both school and higher education settings, include:

    • Prompting or requiring learners to explicitly formulate or restate the goal
    • Displaying the goal in multiple ways
    • Encouraging chunking of long-term goals into shorter-term objectives
    • Incorporating the use of prompts or scaffolds for visualising desired outcomes
    • Engaging learners in discussions of what excellence looks like
    • Generating relevant examples that connect to their background and interests

Some specific strategies include Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and rubrics.

Discrete Trial Training

First, Discrete Trial Training. DTT takes a skill and pulls it apart into its basic components. Starting at the most fundamental component, the student learns or acquires that skill (acquisition), practices the skill to mastery (fluency), maintains the skill across time (maintenance) and transfers the skill to a new situation (generalisation).

A technique used in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), DTT has been used for decades in supporting learners with autism. However, DTT is possible to incorporate into any learning setting.

As DTT is concise and provides step-by-step support tailored to develop a skill efficiently, it is useful in supporting students to succeed with small components of a larger goal. Positivity and brevity are key features, making learning, and ultimately goal achievement, more attainable through its step-by-step format, thus supporting the development of purposeful and motivated learners.


Next, rubrics. Most educators will be familiar with rubrics. A rubric is an assessment tool that can also be used to track development through a task. Rubrics are primarily used to collect data on students’ progress related to a specific skill or assessment task. Rubrics support students to understand the requirements of a task, how it will be marked, and most importantly in terms of making learning goals salient, how well the student is progressing toward achievement of the task or skill.

In summary, because rubrics can be used as formative and summative assessment tools, they can be used across the who learning activity/assessment duration to support learners to track their progress, sustain their effort and persist with their learning.

Well-considered rubrics are powerful tools for focusing on goals or outcomes. They can even be co-created with the learner to make the student goals even more salient.

Other strategies to heighten engagement in learning

In previous posts, we have explored tools and strategies to enable educators to recruit students’ interest in their learning. Click the link to read more about these strategies: