Friday, January 7, 2011

Intrinsic motivation first, extrinsic second (or even never)

When students are learning due to intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation, the learning is far more substantial.   Sadly, most classes are providing students with extrinsic motivators.
Intrinsic motivation is when a student is motivated by internal factors.  Students who are demonstrating intrinsic motivation will be driven to do things “just for the fun of it”, or because they truly believe it is worthwhile to do.
Extrinsic motivation is when a student is motivated by external factors.  Students who are demonstrating this type will be driven to do things because of rewards in a class, such as grades. 
When a student is completing a task because of intrinsic motivation, he/she does not need an explanation to complete it, due to the simple fact that he/she already understands the meaning behind it.  Extrinsic motivation forces the students to complete the task for a reward, and most students will become more interested in the reward than the actual task itself. 
Which is better? Here is some research:
Lepper, Greene and Nisbett (1973) asked two groups of children to do some drawings. One group was promised a 'good player medal' for their work and the other was promised nothing. On a return visit, the groups were given paper and crayons and what they did was observed. The group who had been given the medal for drawing previously spent significantly less this time drawing as compared with the no-reward group.

Most classes are offering external motivators such as rewards (I would even call this bribery) or even threats.  Extrinsic is the “easy way out” to trick a student into learning.  When a class is run this way, the moment you stop giving the reward the learning also stops.   Again some research:
Greene, Sternberg and Lepper (1976) played mathematical games with schoolchildren, which the children seemed to enjoy. After a while, they started giving rewards for success. When they took away the rewards, the children quickly gave up playing the games. 
The explanation was that the children had decided that they were playing for the reward, not for the fun.

Many times I have heard, “If I don’t mark it, they won’t do it!”  My reply; “If they won’t do it, maybe it is not worthwhile for them to do it”.  In education, we need to start relying on true intrinsic motivators and stop providing students with extrinsic motivation.

1 comment:

  1. We shold stop teaching all of the things that don't matter in life. Classes in forensic science science, calm, photography??--
    What about a class on our debt based fractional reserve money system??
    How bout a class on logical deductive critical thinking??

    No No No that is not important.