On Day 7 and 8 this week (Wednesday and Thursday), we’re going to think a little bit about what motivates us in school: why do we study for important assessments? Why do we turn in homework on-time? Why do we care about what shows up on Powerschool or our report cards? This may be the most important thing we think about this year, because motivation is key to all learning.
All students (all people, really) are motivated by different things. In school, some work hard mostly for reasons that come from inside them. They study because they enjoy learning new things; or because they want to prepare themselves for what comes next–high school, university, their future careers; or because they find it satisfying to overcome challenges. Motivation that comes from inside us is called intrinsic motivation.
Other students work hard mostly for reasons that come from outside them. They study hard because they like to get praise or rewards from their teachers; or because they want to make their parents happy; or because they want to avoid ‘getting in trouble.’ Motivation that comes from outside us is called extrinsic motivation.
Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can work, and most of us are motivated by a mix of things. But there is some interesting research that suggests that extrinsic motivators (e.g., rewards and punishments) work better for mechanical, boring things, while intrinsic motivators (e.g., working hard because it is satisfying to do a job well) work better for things involving creativity and higher level thinking–much of what we do in school.
For example, rewarding people with money for picking up trash is likely to result in them picking up more trash. But rewarding people with money to become great writers or to solve high level math problems, is not likely to be effective. This may seem hard to believe, but this video by Daniel Pink explains some of the research and reasons why this is true. (If you’d prefer to read about these ideas, you can look here.)
So what mostly motivates you as a student? Which are more important to you, extrinsic motivators or intrinsic motivators? Share your thinking in the comments below.