58: Factors that Improve Intrinsic Motivation





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Extrinsic Motivation
  • Good for short term algorithmic tasks; bad for creative tasks
  • Can diminish intrinsic motivation
  • May be helpful when situation is stressful & requires immediate attention
  • Need for baseline extrinsic motivation.  Examples: clean classroom, engaging lessons, caring teacher
Factors That Promote Intrinsic Motivation:
  • Autonomy
    • Give students voice & choice.  Types of choice:
      • procedural – choice of task
      • organizational – choice of logistics (e.g. seating, agendas)
      • cognitive – choice of learning
        • Students create own solutions to relevant problems
        • Students publicly share problem solving approaches
        • Use thinking routines to scaffold & express thinking
  • Competence
    • Praise process, not just product.
    • Plussing protocol: I like … and … and .. what if you tried ….
    • Use responsive teaching strategies.  See Differentiation articles for ideas.
    • Anticipate misconceptions and subtle concepts/skills and proactively prepare extra scaffolds for these.
    • Use formative assessments to adjust instruction.
    • Use variety of formative assessments.
    • Use multiple grouping styles.
    • Use scaffolds to guide conversations & thinking.  See Literacy articles for ideas.
    • Pre-teach up to 6 vocabulary words with visual support
    • Use message abundancy (amplification) i.e. use several strategies to scaffold same content
  • Relationships
    • Take genuine interest in students
    • Be courteous and friendly
    • Be flexible – It’s more important to DO RIGHT, than to BE RIGHT.  Reminder the end goal is learning.
    • Don’t give up on students.
    • Have authoritative, not authoritarian classroom management style.  Being authoritarian is like a dictator approach to classroom management.  Being authoritative means demonstrating control relationally, through listening and explaining.
    • Develop empathy and attunement for students.  Empathy is understanding students’ feelings; attunement is understanding students’ thoughts.
    • Teach students how to collaborate well.  See Classroom Management articles for more ideas.
  • Relevance
    • Have students write and talk about how current learning experiences relate to their own lives.
    • Use student interests to design scaffolds and projects.
    • Teach students how to set, track and achieve goals
    • Use strategies that frame content in authentic contexts such as problem-based learning and project-based learning


Lack of intrinsic motivation can lead students to withhold effort and withhold their presences (absenteeism) in the classroom.  Learning how to create the conditions that promote intrinsic motivation can help students to be more engaged in their own learning.  Treating related attitudes as skills, rather than as traits, can help teachers develop scaffolds that build students’ intrinsic motivation.


Preparation Steps
  • Reflect on current classroom management & instructional practices using the 4 factors above.  Which factors are strongly present in the classroom?  Which are less present in the classroom?
  • Brainstorm and research how to enhance intrinsic motivation factors that are already strengths in one’s repertoire.  Larry Ferlazzo’s blog has many resources.
  • Brainstorm and research strategies that relate to gaps in one’s repertoire.  Larry Ferlazzo’s blog has many resources.
  • Research and design lessons that build up students’ skills and attitudes that relate to intrinsic motivation.  See Agency articles  and Larry Ferlazzo’s blog  for ideas.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Regularly implement lessons that build positive learning culture and build up students skills that relate to intrinsic motivation and learning goals.
  • Develop and implement systems that relate to responsive teaching.  See Differentiation articles for ideas.
  • Ask students for feedback on scaffolds, routines, and practices and use this feedback to fine-tune them.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Ask students to brainstorm practices & routines that can enhance 4 factors related on intrinsic motivation.
  • Teach students about intrinsic motivation and about strategies to enhance it.  See Agency articles and Larry Ferlazzo’s blog for ideas.



One thought on “58: Factors that Improve Intrinsic Motivation

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