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3 Ways To Fuel "Self-Motivation" In Students

Psychologists believe that people are either motivated intrinsically or extrinsically to do something or accomplish a task.


Both forms of motivation will present themselves to us over time and depending on the task, we may be motivated by something external or internal. 

“Extrinsic Motivation” is used in the classroom often throughout the year by many teachers around the world.  When students choose a behavior in order to receive a reward, and the reason does not come from love of the activity or the benefit the activity provides, it diminishes the real reason we want them to do the task.  This type of motivation does work in the short term, has it’s benefits, and can be successful during the year, but our goal as teachers is to create life long learners in the end.

“Intrinsic Motivation” is what will create the “life long learners” we are hoping our students become.  When students choose a behavior simply because of their interest in something, they will end with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment once complete. If they are intrinsically motivated individuals, they will learn to better themselves throughout their lives without the need for an external reward and will continue to learn new things.

Our goal is for them to choose to learn simply because they value the benefits learning provides and view their education as a vital part of their well being.

But how can we achieve this goal with our students?

It’s Not An Easy Road

The difficult aspect regarding intrinsic motivation is that it takes time to accomplish.  In order for a student to become internally motivated, they must first see the “why,” and the purpose, for completing a task. Once they “buy in” to this purpose, they will then have the internal motivation to complete the task.  To instill this however will take time and patience from the side of the teacher.  This will also require us, as teachers, to take a step back and allow for a more student centered culture within the classroom.

 3 Simple Strategies To Fuel “Self-Motivation” In Our Students

1. Student Choice

Allowing students to have choice in what they do in regards to their learning can go a long way. There are many ways to do this, however when students take ownership of something they are motivated intrinsically to make it the best it can be.

For example, if students were allowed to develop their own ideas for assignments based on what is being studied in class, they would be motivated to go above and beyond what was expected.  Another way teacher’s can give choice to their students would be to offer problems or issues that hit close to home for students and give them the opportunity to make a difference.  In either example, the “reward” is simply the task itself as opposed to something external.

2. Relevant Connections

Students want to know that what they are learning is relevant to their lives.  So many times teachers will tell them the “why” and then move on with the lesson.  I think the key here is to let them figure out the “why” for themselves.  There are different ways that this can be done, but allowing the students to find the relevance for themselves will make all the difference.  You can create “ticket out” activities where students write down how the lesson learned that day was useful in their lives or how it could be useful in the future.  You can allow students to openly discuss their thoughts on how the topic at hand is relevant to their lives.  By giving the students the responsibility to find relevance, it gives them a tangible purpose for their education and will motivate them to continue their learning in the future.

3. Setting Goals

Setting goals is something we often do in the beginning of the year to help set the tone for the rest of the year. The only way it works is if these goals are revisited often and updated when needed.  The key to this is to hold the students accountable for their goals.  One way to do this would be to create “goal cards” that students carry with them daily.  You can set up the goal cards with a few guidelines.

1.  Goal Cards will Include: a daily goal (to be done each day), a semester/marking period goal (to be accomplished by the end of the semester),and a year long goal (a goal accomplished by the end of the year).

2. Goals listed CANNOT be “reward based” (ex. get an “A” all four marking periods, or to receive __ for doing ___)

3. Goal cards are to be carried with them at all times during the school day. (I usually laminate them and put a key ring on it so students can attach it to their notebooks) 

These goal cards would be revisited and updated at the end of each marking period so students are continually reminded of the importance.

When we instill intrinsic motivation in our students, their attitude goes from “I have to do something,” to “I choose to do something.”  This attitude can make all the difference in the world for many students, and may be the one thing that changes their lives forever.

[shareable cite=”Chuck Poole”]Our goal as teachers is for our students to become life long learners .[/shareable]

Question: What other strategies can teachers use to help foster intrinsic motivation in their students? Leave a comment by clicking here.

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