Tips on Teaching

Discovering Student Metacognitive Learning Strategies Using the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Understanding college student’s internal motivations toward learning can provide useful insight when both designing and teaching a course.  While there are a growing number of tools designed to investigate student motivations towards learning, the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) offers a social cognitive perspective to investigate metacognitive learning strategies. Developed in 1991, by Paul Pintrich, David Smith, Teresa Garcia and Wilbert McKeachie, at the University of Michigan, the MSLQ is a reliable open-source survey instrument designed to “assess college students’ motivation orientations and their use of different learning strategies for a college course.”

The MSLQ investigates a general cognitive perspective on motivation and self-regulated learning.  The instrument includes 81, 7-point Likert-type questions that are separated into two broad categories: motivation and learning strategies. Although each of the two categories are divided into 15 sub-categories related to motivation and learning, the survey is modular allowing the instrument to be customized to suit the specific needs of the instructor or researcher.

Listed below are a few sample questions in order to get a sense of the metacognitive-themed questions included in the MSLQ instrument:

  1. I prefer class work that is challenging so I can learn new things.
  2. Even when I do poorly on a test I try to learn from my mistakes.
  3. Compared with other students in this class I think I know a great deal about the subject.
  4. I worry a great deal about tests.
  5. Understanding this subject is important to me.
  6. When I study for a test, I try to put together the information from class and from the book.
  7. When I do homework, I try to remember what the teacher said in class so I can answer the questions correctly.
  8. I ask myself questions to make sure I know the material I have been studying.
  9. It is hard for me to decide what the main ideas are in what I read.
  10. When work is hard I either give up or study only the easy parts.

Although the MSLQ may take a little effort to learn to administer, the manual provides instruction on how to utilize and amend the instrument in order to suit the needs of the instructor or researcher.

Using an instrument like the MSLQ at the beginning of a course may offer insight into students’ motivation towards learning, attention and memory.  The results may also inform course design, lesson creation, and instruction.  Additionally, an instrument like the MSLQ may help provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their own metacognitive strategies for learning.

The manual for the MSLQ is in the public domain and is available online.  The instrument can be used for valid research purposes as long as it is appropriately cited.  If you would like to discuss how to incorporate metacognitive learning strategies into your course design, please complete our online form to request a consultation or call us at (314) 977-3944.



Duncan, T. G., & McKeachie, W. J. (2005). “The making of the motivated strategies for learning             questionnaire.” Educational Psychologist40(2), 117-128.


Pintrich, P., Smith, D., Garcia, T. & McKeachie, W. (1991). A Manual for the Use of the Motivated          Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, National Center for Research to Improve Post-Secondary Teaching and Learning.