Tips for Teachers: 31. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

May 7, 2024 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 31. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

May 7, 2024 | Blogs

‘It is important to define two phrases used extensively throughout research literature on motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic generally refers to things that come from within the student, such as their personal beliefs and attitudes. Extrinsic generally relates to things that come from outside the student in order to motivate them.’ The Early Career Framework Handbook, The Chartered College of Teaching, 2020.

Leppar et al., in 1973 found that if intrinsic motivation is low, extrinsic rewards has a positive impact on subsequent motivation, however if intrinsic motivation is high providing an extrinsic reward can decrease intrinsic motivation; also known as the overjustification effect.

According to Daniel Pink, extrinsic motivation should only be used on tasks that have one or only a few correct answers and involve little creativity. If a task or activity involves problem solving and creativity than providing extrinsic rewards can be more harmful than motivating.

As teachers we want our pupils to be interested and motivated to learn and develop a lifelong love of learning. We aim for this to happen from a young age by developing their curiosity and passion.

‘Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.’ Samuel L Johnson

Pupils are more likely to be motivated if they understand the need to learn the material, it is relevant to their lives or it involves their interests.

In 2023, Niketa Suri wrote: ‘In education, both types of motivation can be useful in different ways. For example, extrinsic rewards can be effective in motivating students to complete routine tasks, such as homework or attendance, but they may not be as effective in promoting deeper learning or critical thinking skills. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, can be fostered through activities that allow students to pursue their interests and passions, provide opportunities for autonomy and choice, and create a sense of challenge and mastery.’

Intrinsically motivated pupils can maintain attention and focus for longer and intrinsic motivation is congruous with higher performance and achievement.

According to self-determination theory, there are three basic psychological needs that are fundamental for motivation:

      • Autonomy: where pupils take ownership or control of behaviours, goals and learning;
      • Competence: when pupils believe and feel they can succeed and grow, and their actions will be impactful;
      • Relatedness: referring to a pupil’s sense of belonging and connectedness.

‘Self-Determination Theory offers a valuable insight into what it takes to increase students’ motivation. When you support students’ autonomy, competence and relatedness, it enhances their intrinsic motivation to learn. This is easier said than done, as motivation is complex, nuanced and in a constant state of flux. But in trying to do so, we can hopefully help develop independent, self-motivated and lifelong learners.’ Inner Drive: 5 ways Self-Determination Theory can help student motivation.

    This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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