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Develop Intrinsic Motivation


Social-Emotional Learning ^Music, Art and Makerspaces All Ages Strategy



Develop Intrinsic Motivation

If your student is unmotivated or primarily motivated by grades or other external performance metrics

How To Apply It!

  1. Help students discover their intrinsic motivations, or what they truly enjoy and care about, as life achievement and satisfaction is generally closely tied to intrinsic motivations.
  2. Find meaning. Discuss with students the importance of discovering what motivates them: If you understand yourself and what you love, you can find ways to apply it throughout life. Ultimately learning is not about satisfying your teachers, parents, or friends. When you enjoy what you do, you are far more likely to be successful. Take time to discover what you enjoy. Don’t worry about what others are doing or thinking.
  3. Discuss "stand-out" successes. Have students each reflect on a recent success, whether it was a school project, mastering a new concept, or extra-curricular. Ask the student why they think they did so well. Often they will discover their best work is in activities they truly love.
  4. Make a list. Have students make a two column list of their "Interests and Passions" (academic, nonacademic, activities, topics, issues) and why.
  5. Use it. Have the students keep their "Interests and Passions" list handy and add to it when they discover or think of new interests. Encourage the students to reference their list when they need to choose a topic for writing, decide on a project idea, or pick a book. Help students find ways to pursue these interests when they have extra time and need an independent activity. Once students build this awareness of what they like or what piques their interest, there are often ways to incorporate their interests into their work which will make it much more exciting and motivating.
  6. Resources. When students have extra time perhaps while others are finishing work, have them try these websites and explore their interests: DIY.org, BrainPop, and Wonderopolis.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Research shows that encouraging students with external rewards can help a student accomplish a short term, concrete goal such as getting an "A", but usually increases fear of failure and decreases intrinsic motivation which interferes with long-term learning success. Students ultimately must have the interest and drive to learn on their own and helping them realize and find ways to apply their true interests is the first step. The exception is in developing automaticity with foundational material like learning to read, spell, or master math facts. These are challenging and essential skills for young children and sometimes small rewards are essential to keep them on the right path.

You can read more about the importance of developing intrinsic motivation in these Articles on Grit, Growth Mindset, and Motivation.