What Drives You?

Think about certain challenges that you’ve been faced with during your lifetime. What has been your key motivators that pushed you to complete these challenges? Was it the promise of a higher salary? Maybe a gold medal? Or was it just wanting the pure satisfaction of overcoming an obstacle?

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These are all different examples of things that motivate us. What many people don’t stop to think about is the different kinds of motivations, intrinsic and extrinsic.

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Our society and the education system focuses highly in extrinsic motivation. If you think back to elementary school, nearly everyone has had an experience from when their teacher gave them candy or a gold star for getting a question right. This is an example of extrinsic motivation.

While extrinsic motivators might seem like a good idea, they often end up squashing creativity and ingenuity. This video gives a good explanation and example of why this is.

Extrinsic motivators kill creativity

Extrinsic rewards have been used by educators in the past. However, the future of teaching is here and it’s time to focus on intrinsic motivators.

Some examples of intrinsic motivators might be:

  • learning a new language because you find it interesting
  • playing a sport because it is fun for you and allows you to get active
  • volunteering because it makes you feel fulfilled as a person
  • spending time with someone because you like being around them

These examples all share one thing: there is no outside reward for completing a task. Intrinsic motivation is all about doing something for the sake of doing it. And it’s imperative that this sort of motivation is used in the classroom more often. By helping students to motivate themselves, it allows for creativity and a sense of purpose in the student.

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This video gives a wonderful example and explanation of intrinsic motivation.

So what are ways that you can get your students to motivate themselves?

  1. Give students several options on ways to complete an assignment
  2. Do hands on experiments that you might not know the end result for
  3. Allow some assignments to go without a grade and just be done for the sake of knowledge
  4. Allow your students to pick a topic they’re passionate about and become masters in it


  1. Great post Emma!

    I liked your ideas of how to get students motivated to pursue their own learning. I especially like the last one, what are some ways you could get students to bring their own interests into the classroom?

  2. Hi Emma! Great post! I really liked your use of graphics to explain the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and I loved how the videos you used gave the reader real life examples of what these kinds of motivations can look like. You have some great ideas about how to intrinsically motivate your students! I especially like the idea about allowing students choose something they are interested in and letting them become masters of it. In a school system that is so focused on meeting standards and requirements, how do you plan on giving your students the autonomy to become masters of something that’s important to them while also meeting the state and national standards?

  3. Hi Emma! Fantastic post! I really enjoyed the old man story video. It really did a good job explaining how extrinsic rewards can kill intrinsic ones. So for example, giving your students candy for answering questions might be a good idea at first, but eventually they’ll just get tired of it and stop answering. A question I have for you is, what if you have a class of seniors who have “senioritis” and they have no intrinsic motivation to do anything. What types of things would you do to keep them motivated until they graduate?

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