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Improving student performance through intrinsic motivation


Motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation describes behaviour driven by internal rewards - that is, behaviour one engages in because it is naturally satisfying - while extrinsically motivated behaviour stems from the expectation of external rewards like money and praise.

Though a student’s drive or desire to learn can most often be traced to an external influence, be it impactful teachers or recurring evaluations, students with an internal drive to learn typically display more resolve and engage in more consistent action, making intrinsic motivation a valuable asset to possess.

Here are four elements teachers can focus on to stimulate and improve their students’ intrinsic motivation.

1. Competence

When performing academic tasks, students should not only see improvement, but realise that they are responsible for that development.

The aim is for students to develop a growth mindset, i.e. to believe that their accomplishments are a result of their efforts, and for teachers to ensure that these efforts are effective by providing the necessary guidance.

Students with such a mindset typically see failure as an opportunity to learn, and persevere when others might quit.

2. Autonomy

As students become more competent, they should be given more chances to act and learn on their own.

Teachers can create such opportunities by providing them with ample feedback and encouraging them to take certain risks. Not only will this help the students grow more confident in their own abilities, but it will reinforce the idea that mistakes are a learning experience, thereby pushing them to challenge themselves with more ambitious goals.

Students are more determined when they know they can do well on a project, and even more so when they believe they are responsible for their own success.

3. Sense of belonging

For students to be ambitious and confident in their learning potential, they must first feel like they belong in their environment.

Feeling like an outsider due to certain aspects of their identity can have a deep and unfortunate influence on a student’s motivation and consequent achievements.

Teachers are responsible for creating an open and supportive learning environment in which students can grow and develop the necessary skills to avoid feeling discouraged when faced with tough challenges.

4. Purpose

Lastly, a sense of purpose has been shown to be an important source of motivation for young students.

They should regularly be shown the potential applications and the importance of what they are being asked to learn, or even tasked with thinking about it for themselves.

Student performance can improve significantly when they have a clear view of why they should strive to do well.

Content drawn from “The Science of Learning — What Every Teacher Should Know”, EdX: https://www.edx.org

Gauthier Lebbe

Gauthier Lebbe

Content Editor @ Wooclap, interested in and excited about applying EdTech to the educational needs of today’s students