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Morgan Kueter

ED611: Engaging Learning Environments

Jill Choate

October 28, 2017

Policy and Impact Essay

Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation

One great mystery to many teachers is how some students are naturally intrinsically

motivated while other students seem to need their teacher to motivate them every step of the

way. Students who are intrinsically motivated usually get better grades, are happier, less likely to

drop out of school, and less likely to partake in drugs and violence than their alternately

motivated counter parts (Froiland & Oros 2012). The theory by some psychologists is that if an

entire school can facilitate an environment where intrinsic motivation is encouraged and

supported the entire school will be safe place that performs at a high level (Froiland & Oros

2012). Intrinsic motivation is when an individual is motivated by the idea of gaining knowledge

for its enjoyment, not because they are getting something in return. There are several things that

teachers can do to foster an environment that encourages intrinsic motivation within their

classrooms. Through several studies it has been determined that there is a way to cultivate an

environment centered around intrinsic motivation that will help students to develop this valued


A study done by Wild et. al., in 1997 showed that when students see their teacher as

being intrinsically motivated they themselves will adopt that mindset and become more invested

in the information being taught (Radel, Sarrazin, Legrain, &Wild 2010). The study was done be

having two PE classes with guest teachers, one was expressed as a volunteer while the other a
paid participant. The class with the volunteer teacher had more students that actively participated

in the game and they wanted to continue to learn and perfect their abilities within this new skill.

This experiment extended beyond showing just the teachers impact on the primary students they

were teaching. When the students were asked to teach the game to their peers, the students with

the thought to be intrinsically motivated teacher taught their peers with more excitement and

autonomy (Radel, Sarrazin, Legrain, &Wild 2010). While it is not possible for teachers to only

work as volunteers in their classrooms, there are still ways for them to portray the intrinsic

motivation they hold within their topic. Some ways teachers can express this motivation is by

being passionate about their subject and showing their interest beyond just teaching what is

necessary to students. Teachers can also bring in personal examples or tie the content to real

world interests demonstrating to students the joy they can get from learning about a given subject

outside of the classroom. When teachers are able to portray intrinsic motivation towards the

subject they teach, they are able to start a domino effect where students want to follow that

model and be motivated in the same way and will go one step further to share their excitement

with their friends and peers (Radel, Sarrazin, Legrain, &Wild 2010).

In the past, it was believed that students who naturally had intrinsic motivation developed

that motivation as a product of their demographic, not something that was a learned skill from

the classroom. These demographic factors included socioeconomic status, IQ, sex, and the need

for achievement and individuals desire to master specific skills (Lloyd & Barenblatt 1984).

Through a survey done by the American Psychological Association in 1984 on 450 students from

two different public schools, showed that there was very little correlation between these factors

and the students natural intrinsic motivation (Lloyd & Barenblatt 1984). The study hypothesized

that these factors determined if a child developed an innate intrinsic motivation. Through the
disproof of that demographics determine a childs intrinsic motivation in conjunction with the

results from the Wild et. al study we can determine that through the nurturing of an intrinsically

motivated mindset, we can help students be more successful and enjoy the process of learning

new information.

Students gradually loose motivation to learn as they progress through their education

from kindergarten to senior year of high school (Hulleman & Harackiewicz 2009). This is a large

concern as it leads to students dropping out or not seeing academic success as a priority, which

can lead to negative effects later in life. There are ways that teachers and faculty can alter this

trend by assisting students in developing a desire to learn outside of the classroom and finding

the joy involved in learning new information. When students are in high school they are often

focused on grades, product orientation. They dont care what and how they are learning, they just

focus on the final results. However, when promoting students to develop a desire to be

intrinsically motivated, it is important that students focus on long term goals that are process

related (Froiland & Oros 2012). These goals focus on how the information students are learning

in class connects to their personal end goals. Often students loose motivation in a subject

because they cannot see how the information they are learning relates to their current or future

goals. As a teacher, it can be very impactful to the success of the lesson if students are able to

connect what they are learn to how it can be utilized outside of the classroom (Hulleman &

Harackiewicz 2009).

When teachers are able to teach with autonomy (teaching information that they are

passionate about within still completing all the required standards) this will also create a

classroom environment that allows for the growth of intrinsic motivation for students (Froiland

& Oros 2012). An intrinsically motivated classroom is one where the teacher provides consistent
positive verbal feedback while emphasizing deep understanding over performance related goals.

The teachers allow students to have as much power and control over their education as possible,

and encourages them to be creative in their problem solving and to take risks rather than

punishing the student for getting an answer wrong (Froiland & Oros 2012). When giving

students praise it is essential that teachers provide immediate, specific feedback while making

eye contact with the student (Froiland & Oros 2012). It needs to be skill orientated versus grade

or performance oriented (Froiland & Oros 2012). When a teacher is able to teach in this style

he/she will encourage students to rely on themselves and find the joy in discovering new things

students will be able to generate the intrinsic motivation that will ultimately help students

achieve their long-term goals.

One of largest populations that are perceived to lack intrinsic motivation are students

with disabilities (Froiland & Oros 2012). This is a presumption made about these students that is

not necessarily true. While teachers may see their lack of focus or inability to complete a task at

the same rate as their classmates as an indication that they lack motivation. When these students

are often labeled this way, they themselves will begin to believe causing them to lose self-

confidence. As teachers, if we can build up this populations intrinsic motivation and find way to

tie the material to their interests we can make a huge difference in their success in school. This is

achievable through early responses to interventions. As we notice a student is struggling with

motivation it may be necessary to help them reassess their long-term goals, or to find a new way

to think about the material that can tie into their everyday lives. Students with disabilities have

some of the highest dropout rates in high school (Froiland & Oros 2012). The focus on

increasing their intrinsic motivation for these students can be a major factor in helping students
find school more enjoyable as well as seeing the positive effect finishing high school can have on

the success of their long-term goals.

All in all, this collect of research shows that it is possible to teach students the skills to

develop the mindset of intrinsic motivation. This is crucial because individuals who are

intrinsically motivated have demonstrated increased academic success, are less likely to drop out,

are less likely to partake in drugs and violence, as well as showing greater career success after

school as well (Froiland & Oros 2012). The primary way that teachers can encourage the

development of intrinsic motivation is to create an autonomy supportive classroom by sharing

their passion for the subject matter and providing process oriented praise. As well giving

students the power and support to take control over their education and be creative in how they

tie the taught standards into what they are passionate about. All students have the ability to be

intrinsically motivated, all it takes is a teacher that believes in each student and is willing to

support students as they develop this crucial skill.

Froiland, J. M.,Oros, E., Smith, L., & Hirchert, T., (2012). Intrinsic Motivation to Learn: The
Nexus between Psychological Health and Academic success. Contemporary School
Psychology: University of Northern Colorado, 16, 91-99. Retrieved October 28, 2017.

Hulleman, C.S., & Harackiewicz, J.M. (2009). Promoting Interest and Performance in High
School Science Classes. Science, 326(5958), 1410-1412. doi:10.1126/science.1177067

Lloyd, J., & Barenblatt, L. (1984). Intrinsic Intellectuality: Its Relations to Social Class,
Intelligence, and Achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(3),
646-654. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.46.3.646

Radel, R., Sarrazin, P., Legrain P., & Wild, T. C. (2010). Social Contagion of Motivation
Between Teacher and Student: Analyzing Underlying Processes. Journal of Educaational
Psychology, 102(3), 577-587. doi:10.1037/a0019051