I’m not officially a teacher yet, but I do tutor large groups of students taking a general college biology course at my university. In order to get students to participate, I will sometimes offer candy or something little to motivate them. But is this really motivating them to learn or think critically about what they’re learning?
Benefits of intrinsic motivation
encourages autonomy: when students feel self-motivated to do something, it feels less like an assignment and more like an activity they want to do
increases creativity: since the activity is something a student wants to do, they are given the freedom to be more creative with the task
improves understanding: when creativity and autonomy intersect, it makes it more likely that the student will comprehend and retain what they are learning
Is extrinsic motivation ever useful?
Yes, extrinsic motivation can be useful in some situations. An if-then reward can work for lower-level tasks, like when I offer candy to the students I tutor when they answer a question. But for higher-order tasks, like a project or assignment, and for learning in general, I think intrinsic motivation is more useful.
In recent years, there have been a lot of efforts to make STEM more accessible for female students and students of minority groups. As a high schooler, I took part in this evolution by attending a free and public STEM school. I was fortunate to have this opportunity to be supported as I explored my career and college options. Hopefully society will continue to make changes to get women and minorities more involved in STEM to close the STEM gap.
What is the “STEM gap?” Why is it there?
The STEM gap is the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields and it stems (no pun intended) from a student’s early experiences in school.
The interest gap: There is research supporting that if children are told that they would only like an activity depending on their gender, they are less likely to try the activity if they are not that gender; if they are told that both boys and girls like to do an activity, they are more likely to try it (source)
The stereotype that boys are more scientific than girls starts early in childhood: There is evidence to support that the perception that boys are more interested in computers and engineering appears in children as young as 6 (source)
The confidence of teachers in their ability to do science: It is possible that teachers in early education classrooms do not feel comfortable doing STEM activities with their young students because they do not feel confident enough in their ability to do accurate science (source)
The lack of STEM experiences early in life leads to stats like these…
Takeaways from the above statistics:
white women, Black men and women, and Hispanic men and women are all underrepresented in science and engineering occupations
white men, Asian men, and Asian women are overrepresented in science and engineering occupations
women have high participation, and are even overrepresented, in social sciences and biosciences, but have low participation in economics, computer sciences, physics, and engineering – earning as low as 18% of the bachelor’s degrees in those fields
Inspire interest in STEM for all
take your students to the margins: encourage your students to investigate something they are interested in, and allow them to teach you and their peers about it!
bring natural phenomena into the classroom wherever possible
do project-based learning: have students complete projects that include the scientific method or the engineering design process
These days, there are a lot of buzzwords like “diversity”, “equity”, and “inclusion” floating around when we talk about STEM fields. But what do these words mean?
Diversity: the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.
Equity: the quality of being fair and impartial.
Inclusion: the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.
So, why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important in STEM fields and in STEM education? It’s no secret that STEM fields are white and male dominated. As teachers, and especially exemplary SCIENCE teachers, it is our responsibility to show our students that STEM fields are available for everyone, not just white men.
So, what can we do about it?
Encouraging students to find joy in science, technology, engineering, and math. Showing the countless careers available in STEM and the best ways to reach them! Specifically, show your female students and students of color that STEM is for them too!
Here is a TEDtalk by Keilly Santos about the importance of diversity in STEM.
Showing the joy to be found in STEM fields is very important, but it is not the end of the road. We need to go further than that. We need to consider the deeper reasons minorities are not flocking to STEM…
There are so many barriers keeping minorities out of STEM fields.
barriers to education and opportunity
a lack of role models or representation in the media
A love for science isn’t enough, the culture of STEM careers needs to change. It starts with us!
In our classrooms, as STEM teachers, we need to model how STEM careers should be.
We should be encouraging collaboration, celebrating diversity, modeling equity, and providing inclusion! All of our students should feel welcome in our classrooms. We need to show all of our students that STEM is for them, and also for each and every one of their classmates too.
A great way to do this is to teach about minority scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technicians! These people are so important as role models and to show our students that people like them can and should be in these careers!
When our students tour colleges and eventually apply for jobs, we want them to be able to see people that look like them. Focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion will improve the culture of STEM fields and provide a brighter future for our students.
Thank you for reading this post, I hope you learned something that you can implement in the classroom! Remember…STEM is for everyone!!
Diversity is important to show those groups that are underrepresented in society that they have a place in STEM. Many communities such as Women’s and BIPOC communities are underrepresented in STEM and therefore don’t feel like they have a place in any STEM field. The graph below shows the percentage of different races in STEM careers with and without a bachelor’s degree.
The percentages were much higher for many of the races represented in the graph showing STEM careers without a bachelor’s degree. This isn’t surprising as the percentage of Latinx STEM graduates increased from 5.9 to 10.4% while Black STEM graduates decreased from 4.7 to 3.86% in 2019. (https://stemeducationjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40594-020-00241-4)
Gender – Gap
White Men are the majority of Graduates in STEM degrees worldwide. This gap in gender representation is often shown in even science programs and television shows for children. When we show children that white men can be scientists it shapes the idea of who the field is created for. This is why shows such as Emily’s Wonder Lab and Xploration Station are so beneficial. Showing women and BIPOC in STEM lead roles is a huge step in our student’s seeing themselves in STEM careers.
The gender-gap of STEM careers begin and ends in your classroom.
Edtuopia introduces some amazing steps to remember when creating an inclusive STEM classroom.
REFLECT WHO THEY ARE
Students need to see scientist that LOOKS LIKE THEM
ELEVATE THEIR VOICES
Encourage debates and questions in your classroom.
Encourage them to find ways to get involved in their communities
LEVERAGE THEIR EXPERIENCES
Create STEM experiences and projects for students to see and work through
Use REAL-WORLD experiences to bring the science to life
START WITH THEIR TEACHER: YOU
Recongnize your unconscious biases and adjust your teaching to contradict those biases.
Remember you are human and biases will happen. How we address those biases is where change happens
Within the career paths of science, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), there is a very large population of nonminority men. With a majority of STEM occupations ranking higher on wages, the apparent lack of diversity becomes concerning. Why are many young women and minorities not obtaining STEM careers? Let’s explore this topic further:
The REAL statistics:
“Hispanic workers make up 17% of total employment across all occupations, but just 8% of all STEM workers” (Nadeem, 2021).
Black workers make up around 11% of employed adults, but only 9% within the STEM workforce. “There has been no change in the share of Black workers in STEM jobs since 2016” (Nadeem, 2021).
The diversity in STEM careers is correlated with higher education. Those in the STEM field require higher education such as bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
Black students earned 7% of STEM degrees as of 2018.
A majority of STEM workforces are dominated by Asian and White males.
“Women earned 85% of the bachelor’s degrees in health-related fields, but just 22% in engineering and 19% in computer science as of 2018” (Nadeem, 2021).
Women are widely overrepresented in medical-related fields.
Women are underrepresented in engineering and architecture but have improved slightly since 2016.
Women have a large share in higher-level medical occupations such as doctors, but face far more pay gaps compared to their male counterparts.
What can TEACHERS do?
Here are several ways that the National Science Teaching Association recommends encouraging STEM for all students:
Start conversations about STEM careers with your students. Your students trust your knowledge and may look up to you.
Educate your students that many STEM careers are available to ALL students. Many may feel disconnected from certain STEM fields because the majority consists of non-minority males.
Encouraging your students to explore STEM role models.
Research STEM fields to develop their own goals for future STEM careers and interests.
Help your students explore future careers or college paths.
Show students the possibilities of high salaries and the plethora of scholarships available to STEM majors.
What I Will Implement in My Future Classroom:
In my future classroom, encouraging all students to pursue STEM careers is something very important to me. STEM is something that many students will not consider as a future career path because of a lack of representation.
Here are a few ways I will encourage my students to pursue STEM:
Hang several posters detailing women and minority scientists.
Have many college banners hanging to show local options.
Connect my students with research opportunities to find role models.
Have students watch Ted Talks with minority STEM professionals.
Guide students through finding STEM scholarships through local colleges and organizations.
Statistics show that there is a clear diversity gap in most STEM career fields. There has been a slight increase in women and minority individuals in STEM fields since 2016, and with encouragement, this gap could lessen in the near future.
Teachers can begin to help lessen the gap in STEM fields by encouraging ALL of their students. Allow students to research role models such as Debbie Sterling to create goals for their academic careers. Show your students the salary possibilities and the hundreds of STEM career options.
It all starts with teachers. I was led onto science by my female 11th-grade chemistry teacher who pushed me to excel. She taught me far more than chemistry, she taught me the true art behind the science. Be that teacher for your students.
Abbot, G. (n.d.). How to encourage post-secondary students to pursue stem degrees. NSTA. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://www.nsta.org/blog/how-encourage-post-secondary-students-pursue-stem-degrees#:~:text=Starting%20a%20conversation%20is%20the,a%20life%20within%20that%20field.
Nadeem, R. (2021, April 1). Stem jobs see uneven progress in increasing gender, racial and ethnic diversity. Pew Research Center Science & Society. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/04/01/stem-jobs-see-uneven-progress-in-increasing-gender-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/
The underrepresentationof minorities and women in the STEM field is evident. Black workers make make up roughly 11% of the workforce in the United States, however, they only represent 9% of STEM careers. The same for Hispanic workers, representing only 8% of jobs in STEM while making up 17% of the United States workforce. Below are two statistical figures provided by the Pew Research Center, breaking down this inequitable representation.
Inequity in STEM Careers
The underrepresentation of women and BIPOC in the STEM field is majorly shaped by gender stereotypes, bias, and norms. A lack of role models also plays a major role in affecting girls’ and minorities’ interest in STEM from an early age. The genderand race gap that exists in the STEM field is undoubtedly an issue of equity. It is suggested by many, that women tend to choose careers outside of STEM because of the lack of interest, however, evidence and statistics indicate womenand minorities are socialized away from careers in STEM. Below is a depiction of why many women and minorities make the decision to not work in STEM.
Bringing STEM into the Classroom
Making the decision to pursue a career in STEM begins in the classroom. Classroom culture matters. Here are just a few of many, key ways teachers can promote STEM to their students:
Have students bring in articles that are related to the STEM field for the class to read
Introduce “Scientist of the Week” where students could highlight women and minorities in the stem field
Have students interview someone in the STEM field
Bring in guest speakers that currently or previously worked in a STEM career
Incorporate many STEM projects that relate to student interests
Help students by seeking out scholarship opportunities as well as providing them with community resources related to STEM
Motivation is the driving force behind all life decisions. It is what determines our needs, values, and goals in life. When it comes to students in the classroom what can teachers do to foster motivation and curiosity? In the book Drive, by Daniel H. Pink, he discusses the process of shifting from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation through the three pillars of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Let’s take a look at what drives us as educators and students?
In Drive, Daniel Pink defines autonomy as, the desire to be self-directed. Autonomy motivates students to think creatively without the pressure to conform to strict rules. Providing yourself and students flexibility within a rigid framework will help to spark the intrinsic drive of autonomy.
What are some ways to support autonomy in the classroom that lead to intrinsic motivation?
Provide students with a choice of task
Use project based learning and free time to work on side projects they are passionate about
Flip the classroom and have students participate in inquiry
Have students set personal goals
Daniel Pinks four Ts of autonomy are, the freedom to pick the task, the time, the technique, and the team.
Mastery is defined as, the urge to get better at stuff, according to Daniel Pink. Engagement is what produces mastery and there are 3 rules that accompany.
1. Mastery is a mindset that requires students to recognize their ability. They are not perfect, but infinitely improvable.
2. Mastery is a pain that requires loads of effort, practice, failure, trial and error, and grit.
3. Mastery is an asymptote that can make it frustrating, but embracing it is crucial for learning.
Mastery is another key component for fostering intrinsic motivation within the classroom. When students have a particular interest in a topic, they tend to engage with the content by using more effective learning strategies. These learning strategies include, learning from mistakes, changing/adapting strategies that aren’t working, and asking for help when necessary. In order to become intrinsically motivated, students need to believe there is no limit to their potential and they should be given the proper tools to improve their skills.
Daniel Pink defines purpose as, the desire to make a contribution and to create a transcendent purpose. As humans we are naturally inclined to seek our purpose in life and make contributions to the world. Pink believes that joining a cause that is “bigger” than oneself is what drives motivation.
Purpose in a classroom setting provides students with a reason to engage with course materials and gives them a reason to want to learn. Students like to feel like they are working toward something that is worth their time and effort. Teachers can add purpose into the classroom by simply asking “why” a particular concept is important to learn. Allowing students to add their own perspective on the purpose of a lesson helps them determine the “why” of their work.
EXtrinsic vs. INtrinsic Rewards
Type 1 Test for Homework
Does assigning time consuming homework to students really help them learn? Prior to assigning these kind of assignments, run it through the “Type 1 homework test” by asking yourself these 3 questions that were included in the book. If the answer to any of the following questions is no, think about ways you may be able to reconfigure the assignment so that it promotes learning and engagement with the content. According to Daniel Pink, this will help shift the idea of homework to homelearning.
Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this work?
Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel, engaging task (as opposed to rote reformulation of something already covered in class)?
Do my students understand the purpose of this assignment? That is, can they see how doing this additional activity at home contributes to the larger enterprise in which the class is engaged?
Recall the last time you sat in a classroom. What were you thinking about? Was it the grade on the last test you had? Were you thinking about how much you had to study to maintain your grade after the next test? These thoughts are linked to extrinsic motivation in the classroom.
So, what is extrinsic motivation? Have you ever heard of the carrot and the stick? Carrots are rewards and sticks are punishments.
Extrinsic motivation relies on the student fearing punishments and desiring rewards. Carrots and sticks, that is to say, punishments and rewards, have plenty of drawbacks.
Daniel Pink describes some of those drawbacks in his book Drive:
1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
2. They can diminish performance.
3. They can crush creativity.
4. They can crowd out good behavior.
5. They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior.
6. They can become addictive.
7. They can foster short term thinking
Encouraging extrinsic motivation in the classroom creates an environment where the students only try hard enough to get the grade they want and the students do not care about what they are learning. For an exemplary science teacher, that is not good enough! We want our students to care about science, strive for understanding, and follow their creativity. How can we, as exemplary science teachers, encourage our students to go beyond “learning for the test”?
The answer is intrinsic motivation! What is intrinsic motivation? It means to find motivation from yourself and not from outside sources. Students want to learn! Especially when they are younger. The educational system ignores and suppresses their natural curiosity and drive. By the time they have made it to high school, most students are strictly extrinsically motivated and hesitant to follow their creativity or interests.
In Drive, Daniel Pink outlines the best ways to foster intrinsic motivation.
Let students do tasks in their own way, with their own technique, control over the amount of time spent, and control over working in a team (or not!)
Let students engage in what they are doing and strive for mastery
Mastery is never “achieved”, so there is always somewhere to strive towards
Let students choose their own purpose, or decide what the purpose means for them
There are a lot of options for fostering intrinsic motivation in the classroom! The biggest is student led inquiry and projects with a lot of creativity! The more room there is for specialization the more likely the students will choose to explore something that interests them, and the more likely they are to be intrinsically motivated!
Here are some other examples:
Move away from a traditional grading system and report card
Allow students to work in groups based on shared interests
Limit awards for completing creative work
Praise students for their creativity and process (do not just praise completion!)
Remember that students are people, and people do their best work when intrinsically motivated!
So, what is in front of the wheel in your classroom? What DRIVES your students? Is it extrinsic motivation or intrinsic motivation?
There are always speed bumps, detours, and even breakdowns on the road to success. Drive by Daniel H. Pink discusses how we shape the way our students are traveling down this road. Are they motivated by rewards and external validation or are they inspired by passion and learning? Traditionally we don’t expect students to want to learn or to have IntrinsicMotivators. Instead, we focus on supplying them with Extrinsic Motivators such as grades or prizes. I want to discuss the differences between these two motivators and how they can be implemented in EVERY classroom.
Are You Driving the Car or Riding Shotgun?
When we are on a road trip the driver has ultimate control over where we go and how fast we get there. The passenger is in charge of the entertainment and navigation. The passenger and driver are both intricate parts of the road trip puzzle.
Drivers – As teachers, we are pushed to promote extrinsic motivation because it is easiest for the administration to put quantities with point systems and grades rather than passion or growth. When we allow our students to take the steering wheel in their education we can develop Life-long learners who are not dependent on rewards for motivation.
Passengers – As teachers, The navigators are the ones creating the travel plan and guiding them along their learning journey. It is our job to give them opportunity to grow and guide their learning.
Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic Motivation– being motivated by outside rewards, incentives, or punishments Motivation meant to drive certain behaviors.
“Type X behavior” is the result of this type of motivation.
Promising rewards diminishes the value of the actual work being done.
Intrinsic Motivation– being motivated by inner interest, passion, curiosity, and wanting to learn.
“Type I behavior” is the result of this type of motivation
Promotes life-long learners
Motivation can be broken down into 3 main elements according to David H. Pink.
Autonomy– Taking ownership over their learning
Mastery– Expertise and deep understanding of concepts and skills
Purpose– Having a direction and rational for learning
Autonomy in the classroom is not something we traditionally value. Most of the control in the class is given to the teacher. The students are then seen as children who can not do things on their own.
Student Autonomy is very important, especially if we expect our students to be leaders and change agents in their future careers.
In practice –> Giving students responsibility, choices in the learning methods, and opportunities to show their strength or knowledge.
Mastery of skills can promote “self pride and self-confidence”.
Mr. Vandenberg teaches middle school at a lower-income Californian school.
Due to growing knowledge gaps among his students, he partnered with Kahn Academy so that each student could work at their own pace and truly master the materials covered in lectures.
His students have pride in their work and get excited about learning new materials.
In practice –> Allowing students to work at the pace that works best for them, building activities for each students strength, and making the work relevant to the student’s lives.
Students are finding purpose in schools.
The grades they have are not the only motivators.
Students need to find the direction and reasons behind what they are doing.
Using their talents and passions in school can lead to career paths, self-confidence, and self-discovery.
In practice –> Showing students that their work has a destination such as sending information to scientist, city officials, or school board members.
What does this mean for the classroom?
Intrinsic motivation is not possible for every lesson but should be remembered when creating lesson. How will this spark wonder and curiosity in my students? Will my students be Emotionally Invested in the activity? How can I promote autonomy, mastery, and purpose in my class?
Listening to your students and incorporating the 3 main elements into your class as much as possible will lead to your students being more intrinsically motivated.
Thank you for reading!
Please let me know how you promote Intrinsic Motivation in your class in the comments below?
For more Science Teaching material follow me on twitter @MsCellfie
How do you get students to REALLY like science? What can MOTIVATE students’ scientific interests? There are thousands of questions regarding student motivation that teachers ask themselves. Let’s explore motivation from the inside out using the book DRIVE by Daniel Pink.
Extrinsic Motivation vs Intrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation can be defined as:
“A motivation to participate in an activity based on meeting an external goal, garnering praise and approval, winning a competition, or receiving an award or payment.”
In a school environment, extrinsic motivation involves gaining a reward for an external goal such as receiving a good grade, candy, or perhaps a pizza party. Daniel Pink found that extrinsic motivation is great for non-complex tasks or physical activities. Relying on extrinsic motivation in the science classroom may lead to:
Lack of creativity in students’ work.
Lack of interest in subjects or class lectures.
Students do the bare minimum to receive a passing score.
Frustration during worksheets or lecture notes.
Lack of growth.
Restricted critical thinking.
Intrinsic motivation can be defined as:
“The doing of an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence.”
Intrinsic motivation within the classroom can be difficult to develop. It is much easier to create a lesson that has external rewards instead of intrinsic motivation. It is POSSIBLE by catering to the student’s interest and making lesson plans memorable/ meaningful. What intrinsic motivation within your students can accomplish:
True education and understanding (Not training students to memorize).
Growth of classroom diversity.
True interest in scientific concepts.
Growth of critical thinking and analytical skills.
New ideas and abundant CREATIVITY!
Students develop skills to educate themselves and others.
Types of Behavior in YOUR Students
The way your students conduct themselves academically has a strong correlation to their motivation type. Daniel Pink outlines two behavior types within DRIVE:
Type I Behavior:
An approach to activities focused on intrinsic motivation.
Behavior is encouraged by satisfaction for one’s self.
Structured to build control over one’s own life path.
Guided through one’s purpose.
Inspired by creativity and ingenuity.
The need to assist the world and our peers.
Type X Behavior:
Behaviors that are fueled by external rewards.
Behaviors do not necessarily provide self-satisfaction.
Lack of creativity and more motivation to earn a physical reward.
Done for benefit of one’s self.
Common in physical tasks.
Within the science classroom, look to push students into utilizing type I behaviors. Not only will students find purpose in their work, but the content will also be MEMORABLE.
A Tool of Encouraging Intrinsic Motivation: PRAISE
One important aspect of encouraging intrinsic motivation in a science classroom is the use of GOOD praise. It is very easy to tell a student that they did a “good job!”, although nobody really remembers these phrases in the long run. How can you make your praise memorable?
Incorporate the students’ strategy in your praise!
Praise their effort!
Example: “Lily, you should be so proud of yourself! You have worked so hard on half-life calculations and got an A on your test! I am proud of your growth!”
Example: “I have never seen anyone solve a projectile motion problem like that Mike! Awesome job at thinking outside the box and using your problem-solving skills!”
Many classrooms have revolved around extrinsic motivation and type X behaviors. Students are left to memorize the lecture content and regurgitate it back into an assessment. THIS IS NOT WHAT SCIENCE IS ABOUT!!
We should choose to intrinsically motivate our students as educators to give them purpose and freedom. Make each lesson memorable. Let your students take the reigns and guide their own interests. Let’s encourage students to LOVE science.
Pink, D. H. (2018). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates Us. CANONGATE Books LTD.