Do you have the DRIVE?

Why is motivation important in the science classroom?

Motivation is important in any setting! We all want to learn and grow to be better people and better students right? Or do we just want the grades and the diploma, the promotion, the recognition?

This is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation!

Extrinsic motivation comes from an external motivator- a trophy, the grades, the diploma at the end of school. Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive to do better, to be better at a skill and gain personal rewards. Are your students in it for the learning, the discovery, and gaining a new skill? Or are they simply going through the motions to get the A and move on in their education?

When students are intrinsically motivated in the classroom, they are more engaged and excited to learn! It becomes exciting and fun, rather than work they do not want to do.

What do students need in order to become intrinsically motivated?

According to Daniel Pink, there are three components of intrinsic motivation:

  1. Mastery
  2. Autonomy
  3. Purpose

Without these, students will be less likely to participate in the class, and therefore less likely to excel and gain from the course.

For students to master a skill, they need to be given room to try and try again, and to learn from their mistakes. There are a few things you can do to encourage mastery and increase it in the classroom:

  • Set clear objectives – give students goals that they are expected to achieve. When the goals and objectives are clear, demonstrable, and specific, students know what is expected of them. Based on their goals, students are also able to assess their own progress and see what they have left to do to master the skill.
  • Leave room for error – Mastery does not always mean perfection! Mastery is a goal that students are aiming for, a goal to understand and demonstrate the majority of what they are learning. Setting the expectation that the goal is growth rather than perfection can help take a lot of pressure off students as well!
  • Give feedback – When students are demonstrating what they know, give them constructive criticism embedded in positive feedback. This tells them what errors they are making, and gives them an opportunity to make corrections and move closer to mastering the skill.

Autonomy is so important in the classroom. Students who lead their own learning are more interested and engaged in the material. There are a few ways to do this!

  • Ask for student feedback to show them that they do play a role in the classroom and that their voices matter!
  • Incorporate student interests into the lessons and activities.
  • Give students a choice on how the material is learned. Some students may prefer to explore a certain topic in depth on their own rather than in class with a group!

Purpose is the reason students engage. It is the “why” behind what they are doing in the classroom! Students will often ask why they are learning what is being taught in the classroom, and too often the answer is that the material is on the test. How does this material apply to the world around them? How might the material influence their future career? How about their daily life? Giving students a reason behind their work shows them that the work that they are doing is not meaningless!

Check out the above TED talk given by Behrouz Moemeni. He talks more about intrinsic motivation in our daily lives, and in the classroom!

Are you intrinsically motivated? What about your students? Let me know in the comments!

That’s all for now! See you next time 🙂


  1. Hey Rachel!
    I personally cannot decide if autonomy or mastery will be harder to convey. I think that autonomy will be harder on my part to implement, just because I have a hard time (at least currently) doing things in a way that is not necessarily methodical and in the order I think is best! But I think that mastery would initially frustrate students and would be a difficult concept for them to grasp. Students are so deep in the rut of doing assignments for the grade and moving to the next thing! When students have to shift to do things multiple times in order to get better at a skill, they might not understand the purpose behind why they are repeating the work and that could cause frustration until they see the value in mastery vs grades!

  2. Hey McKenna!
    I really liked your suggestions for encouraging mastery in the clasroom, especially leaving room for error. I agree that mastery is definitely more of a goal and shouldn’t be teachers expecting perfection from students! Also, I thought your explanation for intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators provided great context and examples. What area do you think will be most challenging to convey to students or implement in your classroom – mastery, autonomy, or purpose?

  3. Hey Nate!
    I think that there are tons of ways to increase intrinsic motivation in the classroom. A lot of the answer to your question comes with knowing your students! Knowing their interests and what gets them going and motivated in their personal lives outside of the classroom could greatly inform how students could become more intrinsically motivated inside the classroom. One way to move students away from extrinsic motivation is to do away with the rewards in class. Treats are okay, when they aren’t a reward! When students are being rewarded for their work on an assignment, suddenly the assignment becomes less interesting to them and becomes work. Treat students instead of rewarding them, and this might help move them away from extrinsic motivators!

  4. Hi Grace!
    I can definitely see how incorporating mastery into the classroom could be difficult. It is a lot of grading and providing feedback, but I think that would be so worth it to help students transition from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation! I think that autonomy would also be difficult for me personally to implement in my classroom. I tend to like control and for things to be done in the way that I think it should be done. I am getting better, and I think that student engagement and success is much more important than my personal preferences, but I do think that I am going to struggle there the most!

  5. Hey McKenna! I really enjoyed your blog post. I especially liked your tips for building intrinsic motivation in the classroom. Setting clear objectives, leaving room for error, and giving feedback are great things that I would want to incorporate in my classroom. Are there other ways to build intrinsic motivation in your students? And what are ways to take away students extrinsic motivation? Especially when this is how they are usually motivated.

  6. Hi McKenna!
    I am glad you dove into what autonomy, mastery, and purpose are and how/why they are important in the classroom to motivate students and create lifelong learners. Out of those three objectives, which do you think might be the most difficult for you to incorporate into your future class and why? Personally, I think I will struggle with promoting mastery, just because I think it can quickly become overwhelming for a teacher to regrade assignments over and over, so I need to figure out a system or another way to promote mastery.

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