The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation in Children

18 July, 2020
Today, we're going to discover some strategies to promote intrinsic motivation in children. Any type of teacher in any type of classroom can apply these techniques.

Intrinsic motivation in children is that which arises from their own desire to learn. In other words, it’s the motivation that comes from within. Having intrinsic motivation leads students to want to improve and have deeper knowledge.

The opposite of intrinsic motivation is extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation refers to that which comes from external sources. In other words, students focus on studying, do their homework, participate in class, and pay attention to instruction for reasons other than self-satisfaction. For example, rewards or good grades.

When we ask the question of what motivates students, or what drives them to commit to learning, the answer is usually quite clear. In general, most students go to school because they have to – because they have no choice. They go because everyone else does and it’s just the right thing to do.

But there are plenty of other reasons, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Today we’re going to focus on the importance of intrinsic motivation in children when it comes to going to school and learning.

Intrinsic motivation and commitment

The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation in Children

Ideally, of course, every classroom would be full of students who are interested in working productively all the time while they’re in class. This, of course, is quite a utopian ideal. But utopias can serve as a guide within our reality. So, the challenge is creating intrinsic motivation in children so that they’ll experience a true desire to learn.

Intrinsic-extrinsic evaluation and motivation

Evaluation plays an important role when it comes to intrinsic motivation in children. If we evaluate students too much over the course of the semester or year… If we give more grades than feedback or comments on how students are evolving in the teaching-learning process… Then we’ll be maximizing the power of rewards, which leads to intrinsic motivation.

In today’s current education system, we most often have these kinds of evaluations in mind in order to assign grades. These are evaluations that focus more on qualifying and assigning numbers than they do on quality learning. And, as a result, students don’t come to involve themselves in their learning in a real way.

So, schools turn into a place of work, a burden, something that children must do. But we need to strive to maximize students’ intrinsic motivation and focus more on that. It’s better to encourage students to truly master a subject rather than focus on passing or failing.

A good way to get started would be to eliminate as many grades as we can. Then, we should dedicate ourselves to performing evaluations that focus on learning. And, above all, we should provide true and meaningful feedback rather than just encouraging good grades.

Student autonomy and participation

Another good way to get students to participate is to facilitate more autonomy when it comes to creating curricular material. At the same time, you can seek cooperative methods and participation when it comes to evaluations and grading.

The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation in Children

Self-reflection

Furthermore, we can motivate students by encouraging them to reflect upon something more than just the subject at hand. Dedicate class time to allowing students to think about their strengths and weakness when it comes to learning.

When students discover these teacher-promoted practices and reflect upon them, they experience greater motivation when it comes to studying itself.

The importance of feedback

Teachers should be capable of creating a positive climate in the classroom. One of the missions of a good educator is to give students confidence and teaching them to believe that learning is important for their future in a practical way. You should dedicate time to this mission on a weekly basis.

In conclusion, remember that only students that have intrinsic motivation at school will have a completely true teaching-learning experience. And only then will they feel that learning is a challenge they should face because they want to.

  • Deci, Edward L., et al. Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educational psychologist. (1991)
  • Sansone, Carol, y Judith M. Harackiewicz, eds. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for optimal motivation and performance. Elsevier. 2000.