What is intrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation is the internal desire to want to learn something or want the outcome. In order for a student to be intrinsically motivated, they need to be interested in the subject and engaged in the learning process. Both the classroom and home environment have a significant impact on how students learn and they develop these learning patterns at a very young age. How can we as educators and parents help students develop their own intrinsic motivation? Below are 5 key ways.
1. Provide challenges
Kids need challenges in order to be motivated to want to find out the answer or solve a problem. In school, if a student is not engaged they might be bored because the work is too easy. If this is the case, give them an extension problem or thinking problem that will test their skills. A challenge is often what drives students intrinsic motivation. Or, at home give them a particular project to work on and tell them you’re having them do this because you believe that they are capable of doing it.
2. Notice student strengths and build on those
It’s important to take note of specific student strengths, even if it’s something small. For example, if a student is really good at drawing, urge them to sketch pictures to help them in different academic classes. Always provide positive reinforcement because that will help build up their self-confidence and want them to try even harder. Sometimes it’s easier to notice faults and by constantly pointing those out, and that can discourage students.
3. Set small goals
Some tasks or challenges in school may seem overwhelming for students. If they feel that way, then they’re more likely to not want to face them or not do them at all. Teaching students to set small goals is extremely important. If they can accomplish one small goal, then the next goal won’t seem as difficult. Here’s a personal example. I was a horrible runner growing up and wanted to be able to run 1 mile without feeling like I was going to die. So day after day, I did a combination of walking/running until I could finally run 1 mile and it felt great! I was so excited that I set out my next goal to be able to run 2 miles. This continued until I was running 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. It was a lot of hard work, but I started off with a very small goal to build off of and that feeling of accomplishment was well worth it.
4. Embrace failure
Failing is inevitable. The one thing that students need to learn to do is to pick themselves back up and keep trying. Both parents and teachers need to provide an environment in which students feel safe failing and know that they have you as a support to back them up and provide encouragement. If students can create the mindset that they already know in some ways they might fail and it’s okay, they’re more likely to want to keep trying. Here’s an example. A student might start learning to play the piano and take a lot of time to practice and prepare a piece for a recital. Maybe during the performance at the recital, the student hits a couple of wrong notes and the piece does not end up sounding perfect. As a parent or instructor, remind the student how well they did and focus on all of the positives. Then, have the student reflect on what they could do to improve for the next recital. That will lead them into setting up small goals for success.
5. Be enthusiastic about learning
Some people already have a strong sense of intrinsic motivation. If you’re this type of person and you’re trying to help a student discover this, make sure that you show them how motivated you are to learn something or try something new. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” When students see their parents or teachers super enthusiastic about learning and how important it is, then they will strive to be that way too. If students are in an environment where education is not valued or they are not pushed to be successful, then they are more willing to develop that same type of attitude. Be a great role model!