Types of Student Motivation

By L. Morska

Motivation has been defined in different ways: it is what makes us act; it is a desire to work towards a goal or to reach an objective. If motivation is present, learning can be facilitated; but without it, effective learning becomes difficult. Motivation is the key to all learning.

Lack of motivation is perhaps the biggest obstacle faced by teachers, counselors, school administrators, and parents. Behavioral problems in the classroom often, or always, seem to be linked to the lack of motivation. Intelligent students are often out-performed by less bright students with high motivation. If a child is motivated enough he/she can accomplish learning of any scale.

Intrinsic motivation. The main idea of motivation is to capture the child's attention and curiosity and channel their energy towards learning. Intrinsic motivation is motivation from within the student. An intrinsically motivated student studies because he/she wants to study. The material is interesting, challenging and rewarding, and the student receives some kind of satisfaction from learning. To have an intrinsically motivated student is the goal of all motivational development.

Extrinsic motivation. An extrinsically motivated student studies and learns for other reasons. Such a student performs in order to receive a reward, like graduating or passing a test or getting a new shirt from his or her mother, or to avoid a penalty like a failing grade.

Here is a description of one of extrinsically motivated students. She is a very good student, and actually shows signs of being intrinsically motivated, but in general she is inclined to put forth the minimal effort necessary to get the maximal reward. When she is given an assignment in class, she often tries to chat with her friends or fails to get started, but if the teacher says this will be taken up and graded, she .is often the first one to finish. Her intrinsic motivation shows when the material is of great interest to her, or something she feels strongly about. Also, if the teacher can get her curious about something, without her being distracted, she works hard at it.

She performs well if she is given a task where she has control, the task is very clear, and she is involved in the dynamics of the class. It seems thatwhen intrinsic motivation is low or absent, extrinsic motivation must be used. Although extrinsic motivation can, and should, be used with intrinsically motivated students, too. If students aren't given a reward or credit for their efforts, and no feedback is given to the student, then most students' intrinsic motivation would begin to decrease.