Unit 3 Lecture: Engaging Strategies


Return to: Unit 3: Engaging in Academics

"My main goal is to win an American East Championship before I graduate" - UAlbany Women's Lacrosse athlete

Goal Setting

While the classroom may not be the target objective, an athletes dedication and determination to reach their goals in their sport can be observed. Whether it's the freshman trying to prove themselves on varsity, or the second seed team who always makes it to the championships but loses. As somebody who works with intercollegiate athletes I hear and see the goal setting and motivation daily on the field/court. Coaches are always pushing their athletes to succeed. Parents come to every game to support the kids and instill words of wisdom on how well they did, but where they can improve. The support systems, and goal reaching drives the athlete to continue to aim for success. The next step is using that same energy and determination to be equally successful in the classroom. How can we encourage the development of student-athletes and not athlete students.

There are two types of goal orientations: Task Orientations & Ego Orientations (Curtis, 2006)

Task Orientation: This student meets success with the development of new skills or the improvement of a personal ability. Somebody how sets out to learn how to ride a bike, or learn to play and instrument is driven by task orientation to set new goals (Curtis, 2006).

Ego Orientation: This student views success as dependent upon one’s superiority over others (Curtis, 2006). This type of orientation is what drives athletes on the field or court. Track athletes constantly striving for a faster time than the other runners in their heat, lacrosse and soccer athlete's striving to be the top goal scorer, goalies wanting the highest save percentage, all can be classified as ego orientation. "Athletes have been trained, from the outset, to set easily definable goals: winning over other people equals success; losing to other people equals failure." (Curtis, 2006). Athletes placed in an environment in which there is little or no competition will be unmotivated to achieve.

So how do teachers encourage "winning" in the classroom? Successful students are driven by task-orientation in the classroom. "For these students, the development of new skills and self-improvement—often for its own sake rather than for some external benefit—are the factors that drive their goal-setting." (Curtis, 2006). Task orientation as a way of setting goals is the most effective motivational pattern related to long-term achievement and academic success. Educators and advisors must help student athletes modify their goal orientation in the classroom. What needs to change is the way student athletes perceive that goal setting in the classroom. The student athlete must relate the on field attitude and dedication to the classroom in order to fulfill self-satisfying goals that are needed to be successful in academics. Since the classroom is not the best place for ego-based goal orientation, student athletes should be encouraging to switch modes. With the help of their teachers, goals can be set that develop new skills in a way that compliments the student athletes needs.

Active Learning Space

When a student is confident in their learning space their ability to learn is enhanced, they are able to produce related and useable knowledge (Logan, 2015). When a student is comfortable in their learning environment, they're more likely to perform and reach peak potential. This holds true with athletes in their element. Athletes perform outstandingly on the field or court because they're comfortable and confident. They know what to do without over thinking. So how can teachers create this same environment for them in the classroom?

Feedback is a way for students, particularly athletes, to understand what they're doing correctly, and what can use improvement. Athletes are constantly receiving feedback, whether it's from their coach during practice on what they're doing well or could work on, teammates commenting on a play or drill, athletic trainers discussing injury, or the strength and conditioning coach addressing proper form. Athletes enjoy hearing what they're doing well, and with proper constructive criticism, what they should strive for. The same goes for the academic learning environment. Student athletes have difficulty effectively creating their own knowledge without direction (Logan, 2015). Learning must be directed in a specific way for the athlete, rather than autonomous thinking. An interactive and collaborative environment with feedback from the teachers and students will instill confidence by giving students direction. Hearing other's opinions and ideas, similar struggles on certain topics, or understanding from a different perspective gives the classroom a sense of "teamwork". Everybody in the classroom is there to accomplish the same goal, and collaboration is a way of getting there. Feedback and creating an engaging environment is familiar to the athlete. They must work with other individuals whose desires and goals are similar, applying the same concepts to the classroom will positively impact student athletes. Immediate feedback is also a familiarity to the student athlete. during games or practice when they're doing something incorrectly they're told right away. If an athlete does something positive, it's clear in the celebration or praise. Immediate feedback in the classroom allows students to make changes right away and fix their mistakes, rather than holding onto misinformation or misinterpretations (Logan, 2015). Creating a similar environment that the athlete is comfortable in will encourage academic success.


Do you set goals with your students throughout each lesson? What type of feedback do you give in your classroom? Would you consider your classroom an active learning space?


Curtis, T. R. (2006). Encouraging student-athletes’ academic success through task orientation goal-setting. Journal of College & Character, 7:3, 1-5.

Logan, K. A. (2015). Student-athlete learning: how learning spaces influence athletic and academic success. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1038 Retrieved May 09, 2019 from https://digitalcommons.du.edu/etd/1038

Return to: Unit 3: Engaging in Academics