Activity 3

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation is important in learning. It is important for any teacher to understand why pupils are sometimes eager and sometimes unwilling to learn.

REFLECT: Think about occasions when you have been highly motivated to learn and times when you were not motivated at all. What were the key differences?

A useful distinction can be made between wanting to learn because the task is interesting (‘intrinsic motivation') and feeling inclined to learn due to factors outside the task (‘extrinsic motivation').

For example, interest in a hobby might be guided by intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation to do an unpleasant task might be grounded in monetary reward.

In the first example, success and failure are inherent to the task at hand, thus constituting intrinsic motivation. In the second, reward is controlled by an external force, thus constituting extrinsic motivation.

In his 1966 volume, Towards a Theory of Instruction, the American psychologist, Jerome Bruner, recognised the importance of extrinsic rewards, particularly for young children, but recommended "a considerable de-emphasis of ‘extrinsic' rewards and punishments as factors in school learning" (page 127).

He suggested that extrinsic reinforcement may lead to a desirable kind of activity and cause its repetition but will not ultimately encourage sound learning. His belief was that intrinsic rewards are more important than extrinsic rewards in the long term.

He sees the following benefits in emphasising intrinsic motives and rewards:

  1. The satisfaction that is gained from quickened awareness and understanding,
  2. The challenge to exercise one's full mental powers
  3. A developing interest and involvement
  4. The satisfaction gained from one's identity with others
  5. The pleasure received from one's cognitive or intellectual mastery
  6. One's sense of competence and accomplishment
  7. The development of ‘reciprocity', which involves a deep human need to respond to others and to operate jointly with them to achieve an objective.

REFLECT: How far have you noticed each of these features of intrinsic motivation in your own classroom?

WRITE: List eight ways in which you motivate pupils in your classroom and school. Explain which motivational forms are intrinsic and which extrinsic.

(Allow 35 minutes)