Is motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?

I have once read an article that stated that the word ‘motivation’ is linked to the word ‘emotion’ because both of them come from the Latin word ‘motere’ which means ‘to move towards emotion’. I distinctly remember this, because it has changed the way think about motivation. It is connected to emotion, as what drives a person (our students) are their interests.

I have come across that question (title) so many times throughout the 14 years of experience I have undergone. Moreover, that has always brought other questions to mind: what is the intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? What do they entail?

As it is known, ‘extrinsic motivation’ is driven by external rewards, such as money, fame, marks. They also involve rewards given for completing a task or performance-based rewards. In this area, I see the famous ‘extra-marks’ offered to students who participate in a proposed classroom task. Or the colorful stickers, given to young learners, if they speak English in class, for instance. The only thing is, when applying this reward programme, you have to ensure that it includes an objective and balanced system. Not only does it have to be clear to you, but also to your students. Otherwise, it may produce an empty result.

On the other hand, ‘intrinsic’ is what happens “inside” a person. That is, it refers to actions that are guided by internal rewards. Those are categorised as personal (or internal) aims, such as, recognition or appraisal, the overcome of a personal barrier, the achievement of an “unattainable” goal, etc., which provides the person with the sense of accomplishment. I would say that it is the utmost intrinsic motivator. Who does not feel truly happy after having accomplished a long or short-term goal?

As teachers we should use this in our favour, for example, creating quizzes ( based on what was covered in a unit and displaying their points, therefore, providing a healthy competition environment and feeding this specific type of motivation.

Knowledge is the second intrinsic motivator. For the students who have that longing for knowledge, you can add consolidation materials and resources (apps, websites, extensive reading articles, extra assignments, etc.) to the content of the term programme. You can also create a  social media channel in order to share your tips with the world.

Another important factor, that connects the ‘sense of accomplishment’ to the ‘thirst for knowledge’ is an appropriate amount of ‘stimulation’. On that matter, we can add a ‘self-evaluation form’ which will surely increase the learner’s engagement with the course content. It will also cater for the ‘self-accomplishment’ area, as the student will probably want to ‘earn’ his/her great marks.

Currently, I devise a student profile plan (after the first two weeks) and from that, I decide what type of reward (based on the intrinsic or extrinsic motivation factors described above) is more likely to appeal to the different types of personalities found in a classroom.

Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds the Cambridge Train the Trainer and the DELTA Mods II and III(Teaching Exam Lessons). She has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 15 years. She is an Academic and Pedagogic Coordinator. She is currently doing a Company Management MBA at FGV.

  • Marisa Bernardes
    Posted at 08:48h, 04 fevereiro Responder

    Congratulations! I love studying these aspects of learning process. Your text is very clear and meaninful. I have a blog where I write about related subjects, in a simple way. It’s e ritten in Portuguese because my target audience is the beginner student. It’s named Entender pra Aprender. I would feel very proud if you took a look at it .

  • maria ivania de lima alencar
    Posted at 12:29h, 09 fevereiro Responder

    It’s very interesting! Thanks for sharing this and helping us to improve our teaching!

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