Summary of Intrinsic Motivation


{If it hasn't occurred to you to do so, now would be a good time to look back and review the information in Table 5.1}


When people engage in behaviors without coercion, it is usually because they were motivated by one or more of the preceding individual or interpersonal factors. When learners do not engage in desired behaviors, teachers can often stimulate learning by introducing more of these factors into the instructional setting. As the examples in the preceding pages show, it is often useful and practical to appeal to more than a single source of motivation. The specific factors that will influence particular students will vary, depending on the personality and previous experiences of the learner and the specific subject matter.

An incentive that motivates one learner may actually inhibit the behavior of another learner. For example, a competitive spelling bee may stimulate students to study harder if they think they can win the bee; but it may cause most of the students to reduce their efforts, since they may think that they have little chance of victory and that the bee is really a trick to coerce them into studying some hard words.

The goal of the educator is to set up an environment in which students are willing to put forth their best effort to master important goals. The guidelines summarized on the previous pages help induce such an environment.

Note that even though intrinsic motivation is highly desirable, many of the activities in which teachers, students, and other human beings engage are directly influenced by extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984; Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 1989). As the discussion of artificial reinforcement in chapter 10 will further clarify, the problem is that extrinsic motivators may lead to merely short-range activity while actually reducing long-range interest in a topic. Therefore, it is important that extrinsic motivators be backed up by intrinsic motivators. If this does not happen, the result is likely to be a reduction in the very behavior we want to promote. One of the most serious problems that research has pointed out during the past two decades is that extrinsic motivation when used alone is likely to have precisely the opposite impact that we want it to have on student achievement (Lepper & Hodell, 1989).5


However, while it is important to be aware of the caveat expressed in the preceding paragraph, it is also important to note that extrinsic motivators that supplement intrinsic incentives do not necessarily have to have these deleterious results. If they are done properly, extransic motivators can enhance intrinsic motivation (Cameron & Pierce, 1994). The most important factor is that extrinsic incentives should not be perceived as a bribe by the recipient. If additional inducements are necessary to persuade learners to participate in an activity, it will usually be better to derive motivational embellishments from Table 5.1 than to use more artificial inducements. For example, if a child is reluctant to practice her multiplication tables, a parent or teacher might be tempted to either (a) let the child play an interesting arcade game on the computer or (b) pay the child a quarter for each worksheet completed. The first strategy would be far less likely to reduce intrinsic motivation. This is because it builds upon the child's curiosity and fantasy (factors in Table 5.1), while the second strategy is likely to be perceived as a blatant bribe - actually reducing the learner's feeling of control.

The rest of this chapter will discuss specific principles and strategies of motivation. Although I have made no attempt to do so, it would be possible to subsume each of these more detailed discussions into one of the categories listed in Table 5.1. The purpose of this more detailed discussion is to enable readers of this book to design learning environments that will encourage students to be active participants in the learning process.


Teachers Need Motivation Too


Not only students, but also teachers, need motivation. Many tasks that teachers must perform are not pleasant; they need to be motivated to perform these tasks. It is desirable that motivation for teachers be as intrinsic as possible. For example, Shechtman, Reiter, & Schanin (1993) found that most teachers were aware of many negative elements that are likely to be present when students with special needs are mainstreamed into their classrooms. Many of these teachers resist mainstreaming and resist the consultation processes that could help them work with these students. On the other hand, other teachers see positive as well as negative elements in mainstreaming; for example, they may perceive working with mainstreamed students to be a professional challenge. Success at teaching these students would be a boost to their self-esteem, and so they are inclined to embrace the challenge of having these students in their classrooms. By viewing their work with these students as a challenge, these teachers are motivated to work harder than they would have to work if such challenges were not present. It is important both that others see to it that teachers find fulfillment and that teachers themselves look for intrinsic motivation in their work.



Review Quiz 7

With which of the motivational factors is each of the following teachers most directly concerned? Choose from the following list:

a. Challenge

b. Curiosity

c. Control

d. Fantasy

e. Competition

f. Cooperation

g. Recognition


  1.  _____ Miss Peters has given Tommy an "outstanding student" award for doing so well on a test on long division.

  2. _____ Professor Smith has set up her course in such a way that John, who wants an A in educational psychology, thinks he can accomplish this if he studies hard.

  3. _____ Professor Smith gives weekly quizzes, so that John can easily determine how he stands in relation to his grade in the course.

  4. _____ Professor Smith has convinced her students that if they learn educational psychology they will be able to do their jobs more effectively.

  5. _____ Mr. Howell grades on the curve. In order to get an A, Joan has to have one of the five highest scores in the class.

  6. _____ Mr. Chili lets his students work in groups. Betty will get an A if everyone in her group masters the objectives of the unit.

  7. _____ Mrs. Olivares has presented the information in such a way that Yvonne can understand everything he says, but she is impressed by the new insights she has gained from him.

  8. _____ Ms. Foley finds that her students study American history more enthusiastically if they use role-playing, in which each student plays the role of a significant person around the time of an important historical event.



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Intrinsic Motivation
Interpersonal Motivation
Summary of Intrinsic Motivation <<You are here>>
Motivating Through Curriculum
Reinforcement and Punishment
Affective Aspects of Motivation
Physiological Aspects of Motivation
Cognitive Aspects of Motivation
Needs and Motivation
Attribution Theory
Development and Motivation
Motivation as a Personality Characteristic
Teacher Expectancy
Social Aspects of Motivation: Classroom Structure
What Teachers Can Do About Motivation
What Parents Can Do About Motivation
What Students Can Do About Motivation
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