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Motivation for effective learning

Discussing motivation and learning.
Students in a classroom
© University of Nottingham

Motivation can be internal or external.

Internal motivation is generally manifested as a series of behaviours driven by the individual, through factors under their personal and conscious control. Examples of factors driving internal motivation include:

  • Curiosity
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Personal goals

External motivation is generally manifested as a series of behaviours driven by factors outside the direct personal or conscious control of the individual​. Examples of factors driving external motivation include:

  • To meet the requirements of the course or placement
  • To pass an assessment
  • To be first or get the best score compared to others

Although motivation can energise and direct students’ behaviour, motivation is also affected by an individual’s self-beliefs and their beliefs about the task.

An individual’s beliefs about their capability to perform in a particular situation may influence their level of motivation and engagement. Their beliefs about the value of studying for a particular subject are also important​ – whether they are interested in the content and/or perceive it to be of high importance.

Discussion point

  • What examples do you have of factors that drive your own internal and external motivation to learn?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the discussion below.


Teunisson PW and Bok HGJ. (2013). Believing is seeing: how people’s beliefs influence goals, emotions and behaviour. Medical Education; 47(11): 1064-72

© University of Nottingham
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