Intrinsic Motivation

What the heck is that, you might be asking…The short answer is that it is probably the learning style we all hope and wish for in our classrooms. I found a great article on the Vanderbuilt University-Center for Teaching-website,  describing:

  • Intrinsic Motivation (internal motivation)
  • Extrinsic Motivation (motivated externally- rewards, grades etc..)

On that page, it says “Intrinsic motivators include fascination with the subject, a sense of its relevance to life and the world, a sense of accomplishment in mastering it, and a sense of calling to it.” It goes on to describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of those particular motivators.

Advantages include learning that stays with the student long term, and is self-sustaining. It focuses on the education, lessons and learning rather than a reward system..Learning for the sake of learning!

Disadvantages include the time it takes to foster this type of motivator. As you may have read in some of my past posts, it can be very challenging to light a spark in a student. It requires time spent getting to know them, what motivates them and may be different for each student.

As i read through the article, I thought “Wouldn’t it be great to have a class full of intrinsic learners?”. It seems to me that intrinsic learners are self-motivated, would require less “attention” in class and might even be helpful in getting other students motivated. It’s not to say that intrinsic learners would progress ahead of extrinsic learners. I have been in classes that I would look back and describe myself as having had extrinsic motivators (I always want to have high grades). But I can also tell you that I have not retained a great deal from those classes. The classes in which I would describe as having been motivated intrinsically are “still with me” to this day. And not because the teacher spent a great deal of time getting to know me or my motivators. It was because I wanted to be there. I had a purpose and knew the value of the lesson I was receiving.

When I think to myself “how can we try to spark some intrinsic motivators in our school systems?”, I wonder if we can start to offer them more choices? The classes in which I was truly engaged and motivated to do well, were classes I chose for myself. Not classes that were mandatory or were assigned. This one change could make such a difference in our classrooms. Just imagine- a classroom full of students who want to be there!




Photo credit:

References: Center for Teaching-Vanderbuilt University


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