Intrinsic Motivation

“Having students reach milestones and “kicking their own goals” so to speak is what truly matters to us…”

Do you remember the days at school that felt like a never-ending drag?

Chances are they’re not easily forgotten. At Tutor Partners we want our students to be excited about attending tutoring sessions, interested in acquiring new skills, and eager to explore new ways of thinking. 

More importantly, we aspire to have them feeling the value within themselves when they succeed, not because they receive rewards, but simply because it provides them with a sense of accomplishment. In short, this begins and is instilled through intrinsic motivation. 

How is this achieved? In this article, we’ll explain the importance of motivation coming from within and why this has the power to carry us throughout life.

The Limits of External Motivation

Motivating humans to learn for learning’s sake isn’t easy, which is often why external motivators such as prizes or parties are used in school classrooms. External motivators aren’t inevitably bad; some may encourage students effectively. For example, an “A” on an assignment is typically more thrilling than the successful learning that is accomplished within itself. 

Most kids are sold short. Often the experience of learning can be reward enough— if value is applied. The truth is, kids don’t need free stuff for motivation, they appreciate the connections made in learning more so when it matters to them. 

Motivational Strategies That Work

Experience suggests educators who connect with students and provide a multitude of opportunities to participate in their own learning are generally successful at encouraging intrinsic motivation. 

In the tutoring process, we’ve found when students know that their ideas and opinions about what they’re studying are valued, they feel like they’re part of the learning process, and this encourages greater active participation and connectedness.

Our approach is founded on “working together” which sends a message to students that they have the freedom to learn in ways that function best for them. And together we can problem-solve to find solutions to roadblocks in learning.

Giving students a voice in decisions—can help them develop that greater sense of control, and in turn, foster intrinsic motivation required to succeed. As tutors, we express what is expected from students to reinforce the importance of becoming responsible and invested in their learning.

The Power of Choice

Encouraging intrinsic motivation in students can be challenging at times, however, keeping in line with the positive, it’s possible. Setting goals at the beginning of the semester and committing to them out loud sets a path for what students intend to achieve for themselves. 

Essentially, asking students “what and how” they will approach learning, instead of telling them what to do, is a clear way to instill self-direction and, eventually, intrinsic motivation. Overall, the ability to choose is key.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Matters

Students, who find the motivation within, are likely to be driven for a lifetime of learning. Reading for leisure, for example, will serve students well throughout their academic careers and lives beyond. Being informed and aware of the world around us is another key to a successful future. 

Ways to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation

Build Upon Mastery, so that it’s “significant and awesome”: As we’ve mentioned true connections make a difference. Jim Carrey once said in his Commencement Speech to graduate students at Iowa’s Maharishi University of Management: “Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, it’s opening a door in your head, and when the door opens in real life, just walk through it.”

A Higher Purpose: When students work towards the greater good, or something larger than themselves, maintaining the motivation to achieve a goal is easier.

The Fear of Failure: Failure is not always the best motivator, especially for learners. The fear of failing a subject certainly has its place, in reality, however, we must avoid using this as a substitute for intrinsic motivation.

All students are capable. 

This may appear simple in principle, and yet it’s underrated. Often students feel incapable of completing a task before they try it. The power of the “You can do it” attitude speaks not only towards tasks at hand but volumes for continued success and self-worth. 

Intrinsic motivation isn’t established in a day. Our major goal is for students to move from lacking motivation completely to adopting an intrinsic attitude into their work to performing well for their own sake of performing well.

Kids won’t remember everything we teach them; that is the human brain. However, we strongly believe in the work we do as educators and therefore foresee our students applying the same attitude towards their own work. Be it academically, socially, and emotionally this will lead to powerful effects for a lifetime. The self-belief we utilize within matters most of all.

“You could fail at what you don’t love, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

~ Jim Carrey

Just be, live freely.

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