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Implementing Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

Implementing Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Poor student achievement is often attributed to a lack of motivation and rewards are given in an attempt to increase that vital student motivation. The statement, "If they would only try harder, then they would do better on tests, take more risks, or earn better grades" is often heard regarding the students. When rewards are given, they often have the opposite effect of what was intended. High student achievement comes from students who are motivated from inside. Therefore, instead of giving rewards, teachers need to consistently teach students to become intrinsically motivated.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Nelida N. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Why is motivation important?

Student motivation affects every aspect of school life, from attendance to academic performance, to extra-curricular activities. Promoting the greatest student motivation possible is extremely important for every teacher in grades K-12, especially in today's educational environment, where schools are continuously under pressure to improve test scores, responsibility, etc.

We can find simple examples of motivation, even in the basic shape. A child who cleans his room to display his Pokemon card collection is said to be intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation occurs when a person completes an activity for the sake of receiving an external reward. A child who is promised a trip to the movies after cleaning his room is said to be extrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is important to the development of life-long learners but is often hard to see in many classrooms. Many teachers, in both general and special education, have come to rely on rewards and incentive programs to manage behavior and learning. For example, a teacher may give a boy a treat for entering the room quietly with the hope that the reward will increase the chance that the boy will enter the room quietly the next time. The teacher may think that she is promoting a productive classroom environment, but the boy only learns what behaviors earn a treat. He does not learn about the value of a productive classroom environment.

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Why is intrinsic motivation challenging?

A common theme along the years regarding intrinsic motivation is the development of an autonomous classroom background. When children feel in control of their environment, they are not only internally motivated to work, but also experience positive feelings of self-worth. Creating an environment where kids see themselves as having control is one where they have some choices. Giving children choices in their learning can be a very powerful tool in developing intrinsic motivation.

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Key factors

Furthermore, another important part of the classroom relies on behavior management, where motivation plays a large part in how children act. Misbehavior can be thought of as proactive or reactive. Proactive behavior is an action that a student engages in so that he can feel in control of the environment. Reactive behavior is said to occur when a student feels that his environment is threatened, and takes actions to avoid unpleasant feelings.

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In my teaching years, what I found useful is that teachers first should evaluate the intrinsic motivation of students by giving an assessment listed. It would also be valuable to look at the extrinsic motivators used in the classroom and evaluate their usefulness. A next step could be to examine the lists of practices presented and choose one or two areas to focus on and plan for in the classroom. Evaluating the usefulness of the strategies and practices should be done by assessing the intrinsic motivation of the children periodically during the year, and by evaluating the quality of work completed by children during the year.

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