Autonomy as a Driver of Engagement: Strategies for Motivating Students and Educators

Thursday, August 24, 2023
Noon to 1:00pm (Central Time)
Ayers Institute Webinars


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At the beginning of the school year, educators are looking for ways to create and sustain an environment of authentic engagement in the classroom. Likewise, teacher leaders and administrators are looking for ways to foster a culture of collaboration and ownership among all educators within the school or district. Come explore how the powerful driver of autonomy can help create the motivation and engagement we are looking for -- so that all members of the school community can thrive.


Additional resource(s): 

The Stackable Master's Degree at Lipscomb University's College of Education -- M.Ed. degree.

What can leaders do? 

Build a culture of trust

  • foster a culture of experimentation and “failing forward”
  • encourage new ideas from everyone

Provide clear and consistent communication

  • allow regular two-way communication
  • clarify expectations
  • collectively establish and revisit norms

Recognize employee efforts

  • celebrate small wins
  • provide meaningful appreciation and feedback

Consider challenge and match

  • match people to the right assignments
  • the amount of stretch is crucial

Provide resources and organizational support

  • time
  • people
  • consider the importance (or non-importance) of physical space

Build and foster the team 

  • grow mindsets by bringing together a diverse group 
  • team chemistry
  • squelch cliques and “office” politics

Freedom in the process

  • “Firm on the standard; flexible on how to get there” (Jim Knight)

What can teachers do?

Set clear performance standards and success criteria from the start
Explain why activities matter
Provide timely and meaningful feedback
Encourage collaboration, questions, sharing of ideas
Encourage students to assess their own learning progress

  • Support students’ capacity for self-direction and self-regulation

Foster intrinsic motivation

  • Avoid excessive external rewards
  • Align learning with goals

Help students develop a sense of ownership in the learning process

  • Ask for and incorporate student perspectives, preferences, interests, and personal goals/values
  • Prioritize voice and choice
  • Provide information, strategies, tools, and rationales for learning
  • Scaffold for students to be independent problem solvers 
  • Involve students in classroom rules and decision-making

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