Once upon a time, there was a little girl who wanted nothing more than to learn how to play the piano. One day the little girl’s mom surprised her and took her to her very first piano lesson. The girl was overjoyed! However, instead of practicing the songs her piano teacher gave her, the little girl liked to make up her own songs, which displeased her mother. The little girl’s mom wanted to get her money’s worth out of the lessons, so she made an agreement with her daughter: for every 20 minutes the little girl practiced, she would get three squares of chocolate from a Symphony chocolate bar. At first the girl loved the idea! She loved chocolate more than anything in the world, so of course she would practice the piano to get it! But after a while, the little girl got tired of the piano; she never made up her own songs and she didn’t want to play for chocolate anymore. So, the little girl quit the piano for good.
She lost her drive.
Before being bribed by chocolate, the little girl (who was me) was engaged in what Daniel Pink, author of the book Drive, called motivation 3.0, or in more simple terms, intrinsic motivation. When my mother started giving me chocolate as a reward for practicing, I was in motivation 2.0, or extrinsic motivation.
What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?
Because of extrinsic motivation, the piano was not fun for me anymore. I lost both my desire to play and my ability to use the piano as a creative outlet.
So how do we keep this from happening in our classrooms?
Daniel Pink describes three elements of intrinsic motivation:
- Autonomy- allowing people to work on what they want, how they want, and with whomever they want
- Mastery- encourages engagement in a topic or activity in order to move in the direction of mastery
- Purpose- Provides a connection to goals and the things people care about
How can autonomy, mastery, and purpose be included in lesson plans?
- Let your students be curious and guide their own learning. Give students class time to research something they are interested in within the fields of science, then have them share out!
- Have your students participate in a STEM or science fair. They can plan, create, and present on any topic they want within the STEM fields.
- Not every student is going to be interested in science, so help them to strive for mastery by putting class content into a game. They will be determined to win the game AND they will be learning at the same time!
- Challenge students with open ended, loosely structured labs or mystery black box activities. The students will want to solve the problem at hand and will put their knowledge to the test in order to do so.
- Connect class content with your students goals and future career aspirations. If a student aspires to be a chef, bake bread with your class to demonstrate the process of fermentation and how it connects to baking.
- Start every lesson with how the topic being taught impacts the world we live in. For example, if the students are beginning a unit on renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, connect it to how our overuse of nonrenewable resources is one cause of global warming and how the development of renewable and clean energy sources could mitigate the effects of climate change. Make sure your students understand the context and purpose of what they are learning!
This blog provides other, more general ways to improve student motivation in the classroom!
It is our job as educators to motivate our students. In order to do that, we need to get to know our students and find out what they care about. Find what drives them! Then and only then can our schools switch from the outdated system of motivation 2.0 and move into a new system in which students are intrinsically motivated in their learning!