The definition of motivation is “[it’s] an internal state that arouses, directs, and maintains behavior” (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry p. 399). There are two forms of motivation: intrinsic, and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is where we look for challenges and find overcoming the challenge rewarding; incentives are unnecessary as accomplishing the task is reward enough. Extrinsic motivation on the other hand, is motivation created by external factors therefore rewards or punishments are given to create a desired outcome. Intrinsic motivation is by far the best motivational tool, but both forms have their place within the classroom. The teacher should encourage intrinsic motivation, and ensure that extrinsic rewards encourage learning.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, state that survival, safety, belonging, self-esteem, and self actualization, are what motivates us; we need to achieve each state before we can complete the next level in the hierarchy. Maslow’s theory although highly criticized, is a good way of understanding students as it incorporates students physical, emotional, and intellectual needs while demonstrating the interconnection of these needs on the individual. Belonging to a social group helps to promote self esteem which is important for everyone, and once this level on the hierarchy is achieved self actualization can be striven for.
Self determination in the classroom is an exciting concept. Self determination plus autonomy increases interest and curiosity from the students. The students have the authority to make real choices, which allows them to feel empowered to achieve their own educational goals. The students feel engaged, confident and competent when learning new things hence stimulating high intrinsic motivation.
Having motivated students who want to learn and are engaged is what teachers strive for. Rewards of stickers, sitting in the teachers’ chair, and feeding the class pet have its place within the classroom, but motivating the students intrinsically is key.
I always thought that motivation was the driving force for success, but I’ve come to realize that although motivation is important we need to have self discipline and volition. Volition is the follow through, and without it nothing is accomplished no matter how much drive and ambition you might have. Teachers need to show that they care about the children’s interests; students will be emotionally engaged in school, and strive for success.
Should teachers explain the difference between rewards and incentives to their students? Will the students respond differently to a reward or incentive?
Woolfolk, Winne, Perry. Educational Psychology. Ed 6th. New Jersey, USA. Pearson Education Inc., 2016.