As memories of Spring Break fade and we head into the final stretch of winter term, it's a great time to think about student motivation. How effectively are your courses engaging your students and motivating them to learn? 

How Learning Works book cover

While it can sometimes feel that students simply choose to be engaged or apathetic for their own reasons, the research on motivation clearly indicates that instructor choices significantly affect students' investment in learning. And motivation plays a key role in how effectively students master course material. As Susan Ambrose and her co-authors argue in How Learning Works (Jossey-Bass, 2010), research shows that people are motivated to learn when they:

  1. See the value, either intrinsic or extrinsic, of learning the particular material or skills, and
  2. Believe they can succeed.

What teaching strategies do these motivational factors suggest? To help students appreciate the value of the learning goals in your course, you can: Read more »


Cooperative learning involves having students work together to maximize their own and one another’s learning (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991). This page provides resources about cooperative learning, designing effective small group activities, and guidance for creating and sustaining effective student learning groups in engineering and lab courses.

Guidelines for Using Groups Effectively (pdf): This document provides advice and practical strategies for facilitating group work in the classroom, including a checklist for preparing, implementing, and debriefing group work.

CRLT Occasional Paper on Using Teams
This summary of the research covers topics such as designing effective team assignments, forming teams, and assessing student teams. The paper includes numerous examples from U-M faculty. While it is focused on STEM classrooms, the practical advice it contains is relevant to any instructor considering the use of groups or teams

CRLT Bibliography on Cooperative Learning, Group Work, and Teamwork
A comprehensive list of resources on the effectiveness of cooperative learning, group work, teamwork, and best practices. Many of the articles are available to U-M faculty and GSI Read more »


Testing and grading are important aspects of course design and implementation. Testing and grading are linked to the learning objectives of a course and provide ways of gauging student learning. The websites in this section address frequently asked questions about this topic, offer suggestions for constructing exams and test items, and describe measurement methods. (See also resources for giving feedback on student writing.)

Basics of Testing and Measurement

Grades at U-M
Explanation of grading policies and procedures specific to the University of Michigan, including the timeline for online grade submission and the process for changing grades after submission.

CRLT Occasional Paper #24: Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams (Piontek, 2008)
This CRLT Occasional Paper provides an overview of the science of developing valid and reliable exams, especially multiple-choice and essay items. Additionally, the paper describes key issues related to grading: holistic and trait-analytic rubrics, and normative and criterion grading systems. Read more »


The resources in this section compare the two, complementary functions of evaluation. Formative evaluation is typically conducted during the development or improvement of a program or course. Summative evaluation involves making judgments about the efficacy of a program or course at its conclusion.

Formative vs. Summative Evaluation (Northern Arizona University)

Questions Frequently Asked About Student Rating Forms: Summary of Research Findings


Related topics under teaching strategies:

Evaluation of Student Learning, (Testing, Grading, and Feedback)

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

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