The Hidden Engine of Education: Intrinsic Motivation


Motivation is an important thing. It is the literal reason that anyone does anything of note. Without the drive to complete something, we would never get anything done! This motivation comes in two different forms: Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Both forms are effective at encouraging someone to do something, but in separate ways. They each have value, but this article will focus on the benefits of the intrinsic factors. Here, we’ll be discussing the about what intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are, how to foster intrinsic motivation, and how teachers can use build good learning habits in the classroom by fostering this inspiration.

Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive to do something because you yourself enjoy doing it, or because you find what you are doing interesting. It’s something that you really like and is internally rewarding. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the motivation to do something for external reasons, like to make someone else happy or to avoid some form of consequence. An easy example to help your understanding of the differences between the two is why some people might be reading this article. While some are reading it purely as a way to study a subject they find interesting, (intrinsic), others might be reading this article because they need to understand the content for work (extrinsic). While both forms of motivation have a place in life, intrinsically motivated people have been shown to be more likely to stay dedicated to a project and really put effort into things they are intrinsically motivated towards. For example, you would be more inclined to do something that you enjoyed rather than do your chores, wouldn’t you? Intrinsic motivation is generally a more powerful force than motivation from an external force.

Cultivating productive habits in children and young adults that will last them for years is one of the best things a teacher can do to help students in the long run and make a real difference. Intrinsic motivation has the opportunity to change a life, but it has to be fostered and cared for properly to ensure student push themselves to push themselves to their maximum potential. We have multiple tips for how to build intrinsic motivation.

1. Don’t use the fear of punishment
This in an extrinsic motivator, and will encourage students through an external consequence. It’s not something that will build motivation, as once the consequence is gone, the student will become disinclined to retain enthusiasm. As we are trying to build internal enjoyment and interest, don’t rely on external stimulators.

2. Use both cooperation and competition
Encouraging students to help one another can lead to them motivate themselves, and introducing competition encourages them to strive to best each other.

3. Encourage creativity
Creativity is an important part of the drive to try new things. Trying new things, in turn, leads to the discovery of new things you enjoy. Therefore, creativity is something that should definitely be spurred on.

4. Assign grade-free work
Grade-free work can inspire thinking outside-the-box and work at their own pace. When the stress of doing well isn’t hanging over their heads, students tend to become more creative and focus more on trying to enjoy what they are doing.

4. Praise accomplishments
When a student does well on an assignment or helps a fellow classmate, encourage that behaviour by praising them. Be sure not to overpraise the child, but ensure that they know their effort is a good thing and should be continued.

5. Introduce an element of choice
Choice is imperative helping to inspire people. Don’t make your pupils feel as if they have no choice and are being forced into work, but let them decide how to approach certain tasks, and give them a say in how they are assessed.

6. Be energetic
Display real energy when you’re teaching. Show enthusiasm for lessons and try to make them as fun as possible. Students will in turn put more energy into activities, and may actually begin to enjoy them.

It’s very important to be wary of overjustification. Overjustification is when external incentives decreases or hampers intrinsic motivation to perform a task. When trying to help grow this internal drive, don’t reward students for their effort so much that they only put in effort for the reward. Try to strike a good balance between rewarding students for their work, but also treating learning as a reward in itself.

Building habits that help grow intrinsic motivation in students can affect them in a hugely positive way. It’s a teacher’s duty not only to instruct kids in ways to succeed in the classroom, but also ways to succeed in life. Promoting intrinsic motivation will truly benefit pupils beyond school. Encourage kids to really think about why they are doing things, have them stop thinking about limitations, and help them identify the intrinsic rewards of tasks.