Interest and Motivation

How is it defined?

Interest can be viewed as a set of interactions a student has with various ideas, events or subject-matter (Krapp, 1999). It can be state-specific or a disposition. Motivation entails the various thoughts and feelings that underlie our behaviours (Broussard & Garrison, 2004). It can be intrinsic, which involves the enjoyment of school learning and an orientation to achieving mastery (Gottfried, 1990), or extrinsic, oriented to receiving praise or tangible rewards.

The Learning Bar’s framework on student engagement includes measures of social, institutional, and intellectual engagement. Intellectual engagement refers to students having a serious emotional and cognitive investment in their learning (Dunleavy, Milton, & Willms, 2012). Interest and motivation, taken together, is a component of intellectual engagement, situated alongside effort and skills challenge.

Why is it important?

  • Interest and motivation have a powerful effect on cognitive functioning and academic achievement (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000).
  • Motivation in childhood predicts motivation in later stages of life (Broussard & Garrison, 2004; Gottfried,1990).
  • Teachers’ classroom practices can affect student interest and motivation (Guthrie, Wigfield, & VonSecker,2000).
  • Levels of student interest and motivation vary substantially across schools (Dunleavy, Milton, & Willms, 2012).

How do we measure it?

In Tell Them From Me®, in both the primary and secondary school questionnaires, students respond to Likert questions about their interest and intrinsic motivation in school subjects. The data are scaled on a 10-point scale, and students with a score greater than or equal to 6 (i.e., slightly higher than neutral) are considered to be ‘interested and motivated’. The results are reported as ‘the percentage of students who are interested and motivated’.



Broussard, S. C., & Garrison, M. E. B. (2004). The relationship between classroom motivation and academic achievement in elementary school-aged children. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 33(2), 106–120.

Dunleavy, J., Milton, P., & Willms, J. D. (2012). Trends in Intellectual Engagement. What did you do in School Today? Research Series Report Number Three. Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

Gottfried, A. E. (1990). Academic intrinsic motivation in young elementary school children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 525–538.

Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., & VonSecker, C. (2000). Effects of integrated instruction on motivation and strategy use in reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(2), 331–341.

Hidi, S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2000). Motivating the academically unmotivated: A critical issue for the 21st century. Review of Educational Research, 70(2), 151–179.

Krapp, A. (1999). Interest, motivation and learning: An educational-psychological perspective. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 14, 23-40.