Recognizing Learners’ Needs

Two issues that affect the quality of education in postsecondary institutions is motivation and diverse and global learners. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but each in its’ own right have the power to transform classrooms and provide all students with enriched learning experiences.

What motivates you?

According to Keller and Deimann (2012), “the motivational element is particularly important because it pertains to a person’s basic decisions as to whether or not to accept responsibility for a task and to pursue a given goal” (as cited in Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 85). Instructors must consider this when designing or even just teaching a course. Understanding what drives a student is integral to understanding how that student learns and how to initiate and nurture this learning.

Keller and Deimann (2012) cited J.M. Keller’s (2010) five principles of motivation to learn that are aroused when there is a “perceived gap in current knowledge”, when the knowledge is “perceived to be meaningfully related to one’s goals”, when the learner believes “they can succeed in mastering the learning task”, when they “anticipate and experience satisfying outcomes”, and when they “employ volitional (self-regulatory) strategies to protect their intentions” (as cited in Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, pp.87-88). These principles give instructors and designers alike the means to use and incorporate specific elements within a course to arouse curiosity, provide relevance, inspire confidence, promote positive experiences, and practice volitional strategies (i.e. good work habits) (Keller & Deimann, 2012, as cited in Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, pp. 87-88). Furthermore, Dirksen (2012) pointed out examples of several strategies that instructors and designers can employ to reach learners who may be motivated differently (pp. 31-32). With all of these elements in place, motivation to learn becomes much more probable and easier to cultivate.

I see this in action in the classes I teach, as students who have made a connection to the content are much more inclined to “work” at learning that doesn’t seem like “work” to them. When positive, constructive feedback that contributes to their intrinsic satisfaction is added, both performance and attitude are much improved.

Equally important as motivation, to an enriched learning experience, is being knowledgeable about the needs of diverse and global learners, and also how to address their needs in the classroom. As Lewis and Sullivan (2012) have stated, “when considering diversity, instructional designers must be aware that within each targeted population, each learner brings a unique set of circumstances that will impact how they learn” (as cited in Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 350).  Instructors also share this obligation in recognizing how best to approach diverse learning needs. However, this information is not always readily accessible or stressed by an instructor’s particular institution. I personally was not aware of it myself until recently, and have met other instructors equally unaware.

With the proliferation of online classes, it would greatly benefit the institutions, designers, instructors, and students alike, if courses were designed and taught to be equally accessible and motivational for many different types of learners. Lewis and Sullivan (2012) attested to this when they wrote of the need “to create inclusive learning environments for physical, cognitive, and cultural diversity in order to provide the greatest opportunity for success for as many learners as possible” (as cited in Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 354).

Does your institution/organization provide relevant resources that are applicable to the topics discussed above? What strategies do you employ to motivate your students/employees?

For more information on these topics:


Dirksen, J. (2012). Design for How People Learn. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Keller, J. and Diemann, M. (2012). Motivation, volition, and performance. In R. Reiser  & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (3rd ed.) (pp. 84-95). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Lewis, J. & Sullivan, S. (2012). Diversity and accessibility. In R. Reiser  & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (3rd ed.) (pp. 348-357). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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