Intrinsic Motivation

Activating the Desire to Learn – Intrinsic Motivation

Hey there. Steve Whewell with ExcellED Montessori.  Today’s topic is intrinsic motivation…

There are two basic types.  You have extrinsic, which deals with doing something because you want to earn a reward, and then you have intrinsic, which involves doing something because it is personally rewarding to you.

Now in schools, we have focused mainly on extrinsic motivation.  Why is this?  Because it is easier, and it works!  If I give a kid a worksheet and tell them they get a piece of candy or a sticker for finishing it, you better believe I’ll have more kids getting it done.


Is this really what we should be doing?  What are we sacrificing for the sake of efficiency and results?

I’ll tell you what it is…the moment you introduce a reward, the motivation to learn instantly decreases.  There is a shift that takes place.  You see, you’ve got your desire to learn.  Now comes the reward, and the reward (if it is desired) immediately rises in priority while at the same time, the desire to learn fades away.

Is this what we want?  Are we satisfied with this?  I can’t do it.  This is not what education is about and the children deserve better.

So what do we do?  I’ll tell you what to do…and I’ll not only tell you, I’ll triple dog dare you!….(pause)…Eliminate the rewards for daily activities in schools!  You heard me right.  Eliminate the extrinsic rewards!

Now some of you are thinking, Steve you are crazy!  And you know what, if I were not in a Montessori school I would totally agree with you!

But hear me out…intrinsic motivation is the driving force behind a child’s early development.  Since intrinsic motivation is more rewarding in and of itself, children will learn more from this type of activity, AND they will retain the learning better.

In our Montessori programs, our purpose is to activate a child’s natural desire to learn.  LEARNING is more powerful and more important than REWARDING.

School should be the place where it is ok to have a never-ending stream of questions.

School should be the place where a child can learn for the sake of learning.

School should be the place where children have the time to dive into something they are interested in and continue to explore it as long as they need it.

Schools should activate a child’s natural desire to learn, not trick it into use with external rewards.

This has been the Excellerator with Steve Whewell.

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