Cognition, motivation and emotions: theoretical considerations for increasing the impact of teaching

Motivation ... a subject that worries many teachers, especially during the pandemic. Today we have a document dating back a few years which allows us to dive back into the heart of the principles of academic motivation, particularly in relation to emotions.

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ATTENTION! The English translation is automated - Errors (sometimes hilarious!) can creep in! ;)

Motivation… a subject that preoccupies many teachers, especially during the pandemic. Today we have a document dating back a few years which allows us to dive back into the heart of the principles of academic motivation, particularly in relation to emotions.

According to the cognitivist approach and for many teachers, motivation is one of the components of learner success. As can be read in the Teaching guide: little guide for great teachers (2010), academic motivation is essentially defined as the commitment, participation and persistence of the student in a task. Emotions can also be closely linked to motivation.

In the preface of Teaching guide: short guide for great teachers, the book is presented as "aimed at people who wish to increase the impact of their teaching on students." To achieve this, the two authors, Mario Dubé and Jacinthe Tardif, from the University of Quebec at Rimouski, rely on scientific foundations explaining the learning process. 

A chapter is devoted to motivation. “As with the construction of knowledge, the learner shapes academic motivation as a result of his past experiences, his successes and his failures,” we can read. In addition, the authors recall that motivation is "a dynamic state which has its origins in the perceptions that a pupil has of himself and his environment and which encourages him to choose an activity, to engage in it and to persevere in its accomplishment in order to achieve a goal. " 

So how do you cultivate motivation in a distance education situation? The theoretical considerations recalled in this book will certainly inspire, even if they do not directly examine this form of learning. 

Three basic principles

According to St-Onge (1990), cited in the Memento, “A study relationship can only be established when a teaching situation meets three essential conditions:

  • The teacher is a motivator who knows how to capture and keep the attention of the learner 
  • Content is presented in a way that makes sense for the learner
  • The learner's emotions are associated with the learning activity ”

To better understand them, the authors of Memento retained “the six specific characteristics of academic motivation presented by Bennett and Rolheiser (2006): success, pressure, meaning, favorable climate, interest and knowledge of results”. We summarize some of them.


“If the student clearly sees himself in a successful situation, he will have more confidence and the greater will be his motivation to accomplish the task. By the same token, he will succeed more easily. As a teacher, affirming and demonstrating confidence in student success is a good strategy. Another way of allowing students to see for themselves the progress made with the help of a summary at the end of the online session. 


“The more the learner sees the different links between the concepts presented, the more he will be inclined to invest in his studies and, by the same token, in a position to carry out in-depth learning. »Contextualization is a good way to make learning concrete and give it meaning. It may be to use the current situation to present examples and counter-examples from the student's daily life at home.

Previous knowledge

“The moment when new information enters short-term memory to be processed and transformed into new knowledge has to be linked to others in long-term memory. »Starting the online session by checking your students' cognitive prerequisites is a good way to do this. This time thus devoted to recalling previous knowledge will serve as a solid anchor point for the new information. Interested in this topic? Discover the Teaching guide: little guide for great teachers to deepen it and find proposals for pedagogical strategies. You might also be interested in listening to this video from the series of Educational meetings of École branchée which presents the Testimonial from teacher Danis Michaud, about student motivation and engagement.

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About the Author

Maryline Barrette Dubé
Maryline Barrette Dubé
A graduate of a bachelor's degree in public communication, a “marketer” for more than 15 years, Maryline has been working to promote École branchée's activities and to publicize the organization's mandate since 2018. She is a devoted mother, an assumed epicurean. and IPA lover who, in her spare time, enjoys blog.

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