Student Motivation 101

“He who does not move, does not notice his chains.” Rosa Luxemburg

This morning, I was listening to a TED podcast on the Seven Deadly Sins. When I was recalling this podcast, I found it difficult to recall what the 7 deadly sins actually are – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. One segment of this podcast suggested that, interestingly, other than sloth (obviously), each of these “sins” are actually high motivators for humans. I consider that theory to have some, albeit sad, truth to it. However, I don’t believe those are the only things that motivate people.

You’ve probably come across the terms ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ motivation before. Intrinsic motivation arises by an individual’s desire to be gratified from simply completing the task (ie. feeling a sense of achievement through increasing the distance of your run each week) and is more effective and long-lasting. Whereas, Extrinsic motivation is based on external rewards, such as, trophies and badges (ie. being motivated to run further in order to lose weight).

My question at this point is obvious – how do I increase the intrinsic motivation for my students?

With the current focus on “leveling up” and badges in education, I find it interesting to note that when external rewards are offered for an activity that one already finds intrinsically motivating, motivation is actually reduced (see overjustification effect).

According to Malone and Lepper (1987), there are five factors that increase intrinsic motivation:

1. Challenge – students need to pursue goals that have meaning to them and in which they can receive feedback on their performance.

2. Curiosity – this is two-fold: sensory and cognitive curiosity.

3. Control – students want some control over their environment and their learning.

4. Cooperation vs Competition – there needs to be opportunities for both of these factors in learning.

5. Recognition – when we can recognise people’s efforts, they are more likely to increase their internal motivation (which could be construed as Extrinsic motivation).

I intend to spend my next 5 blog entries drilling down further into how these factors apply in modern learning environments.

But in the meantime, how do you use these factors in the learning situations that you create?


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