‘Tackling the Motivation Crisis’​ with Mike Anderson


As the new school year is officially in full swing and the initial excitement of the first weeks has faded, one of the most important concerns on many educators’ minds is how to keep students motivated.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I caught up with a good friend and thought partner, Mike Anderson. We met about 10 years ago at an author’s retreat hosted by ASCD and immediately became immersed in conversation about perspectives on learning, approaches to writing, and stories informed by watching our children’s experience as they moved through school. Since then, Mike and I periodically connect together, testing out new writing topics, navigating thorny problems, and catching up on energizing ideas.

As the school year has just begun, I thought it would be a powerful time to interview him about his latest work Tackling the Motivation Crisis (ASCD 2021).

Part 1: Why incentivizing extrinsic motivation almost always backfires.

We kick off our interview by discussing why external motivation systems can harm classroom culture and shift away from the joy and messiness of learning.


Part 2: Exploring the six intrinsic motivators.

In this next part, Mike discusses each of the six as we build connections from one motivator to another. The six motivators (in the order we discuss them): fun, competence, autonomy, curiosity, purpose, belonging.



Part 3: Powerful approaches to grow self management skills.

Motivation isn’t something that you have or you don’t. This interview focuses on practical strategies to develop our “stick-with-it” even if we aren’t in the mood. Mike was gracious enough to provide an excerpt of some of the strategies he suggested in the book.



Part 4: Role of the teacher in growing learner motivation.

This last segment continues to share suggestions as to the role of teacher as lead learner, facilitator, and observer. We talk about four key parts to effective modeling and ways to provide meaningful feedback to learners.



If you would like to explore more resources about motivation, you can check out Mike’s LiveBinder, which he updates frequently, or his asynchronous online course about this topic. Reach out to Mike through his website or connect with him on Twitter.

I would love to hear your feedback on our conversation. Please leave comments or questions below for me or Mike, who you can find here on LinkedIn.


About Allison Zmuda

Allison Zmuda is a longstanding education consultant focused on curriculum development with an emphasis on personalized learning. Just as she advocates for personalized learning to be used by her clients, she practices it when engaging with her clients. Allison is also a partner in Habits of Mind with Bena Kallick and Arthur Costa and in Learning Sets with Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Learn more at allisonzmuda.com.

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