Motivation in the Classroom, Drive!

When working together or on a personal task, human motivation can make or break the task. Businesses rise and fall based on the effort and motivation of their employees. Students tune in or out based on their interest in the classroom. And finally, sports teams rise and fall based on their desires.

The difference between success and failure can often be attributed to the motivation to complete the task. Businesses sell a new product, students learn a new topic, and athletes aim for perfection. Daniel Pink writes about a new type of motivation within his book, Drive. Pushing past the world of extrinsic motivation and into the world of intrinsic motivation brings about a new person- one who does not base their achievements on an outside source, but a personal desire to create or grow.

Intrinsic Motivation versus Extrinsic Motivation

Short graphic on the major difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Differences between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation according to Daniel Pink

Extrinsic Motivation

  • Lowers long-term motivation
  • Relies on incentives
  • Restricts creativity
  • Conventional view
  • Simple
  • Good for ‘dull’ tasks
  • Undermines personal endevors

Intrinsic Motivation

  • Keeps long-term motivation
  • Relies on personal desires
  • Invites creativity
  • Novel
  • Complex and different among individuals
  • Innovative ideas
  • Rewards personal endeavors

Building Motivation in the Classroom- Pink’s Way

Daniel Pink posits that there are three main elements that comprise intrinsic motivation, mastery, autonomy, and purpose.

“When teachers create lessons with a focus on intrinsic motivation, they drive students to participate and excel.”

Cathleen Beachboard, Edutopia
Help Students Build Intrinsic Motivation

Cathleen Beachboard explains how these principles can be further used in the classroom. Using the acronym MAP (mastery, autonomy, and purpose), teachers can derive different plans for increasing intrinsic motivation.

  • Mastery – Use mandatory thresholds and feedback to create assignments that improve students’ knowledge of a concept while providing feedback and ways to grow.
  • Autonomy – Increasing student voice in the classroom. This can be seen through discussions and tailored assessment options.
  • Purpose – Brainstorm WITH students how a concept or skill will benefit them.

Beachboard, C. (2020). Help students build intrinsic motivation. Edutopia.

How else can Intrinsic Motivation be increased in the Classroom?

Out of the three elements of intrinsic motivation according to Pink, I believe that having a clear purpose is the most important. If a person does not have a reason to direct their own life or to improve, it is pointless. Because of this, it is vital that students understand the purpose of a concept or see the concept in action.

For instance, mathematics easily falls into the trap of students only caring about the right answer and nothing else (a prime example of extrinsic motivation). While a student may personally believe that they will not use the concept, there are many skills that are built through connecting equations and building a rationale for their use.
Ecology and habitat preservation is one way to take students from the classroom and show them practical applications in their community. Through community work, the purpose of learning moves from the extrinsic A+ on a report card to an intrinsic desire to better the community and habitat in which a student lives.

A teacher can even have students create a personal goal that they hope to achieve as a result of learning and using a concept in the classroom. Examples include testing school water fountains after learning about water pollutants, improving biological habitats of species during lessons in ecology, or creating accessible lab experiments for any concepts that grab the student’s interest.


  1. Hello! I really enjoyed reading your post. You did a really good job of explaining motivation. I think it was good to include the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The graphic that you used for building motivation in the classroom fits really nicely within your blog post. Can you think of any other ways to build intrinsic motivation in the classroom/ other lessons? Great post!

  2. Hi Duncan this is an amazing post!
    It is extremely in-depth, and has an amazing use of visuals which helps the readers understand what is being read! You had a great use of bullet points summarizing the differences between extrinsic/intrinsic motivation. My question for you is you talked about how it can be implemented into classrooms, but what specific steps will you take to integrate intrinsic motivation into your classroom?

    • Thanks for your comment Quinten. One of the greatest ways to foster intrinsic motivation in the classroom is through community events. If students use the information taught in the classroom to help their community, they will see the effects of the knowledge for themselves. This will increase their desire to learn more while also impacting the community.

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