What is Intrinsically Motivating?

This is something that a student does without any form of external reward or motivation. The task here is done based on the characteristics of the task in itself. An easy example would be reading a book or playing soccer just because the student loves it.

The word ‘intrinsic’ stands for something inherent by nature. Thus, intrinsically motivating means something that motivates students from within and acts as an inner drive that propels them to get involved in an activity. When they’re intrinsically motivated, students pursue an activity just because the action itself is pleasurable, not to chase external rewards. In other words, students are motivated by the challenge, fun, or satisfaction involved with an activity, unlike an outside pressure, outcome, or reward associated with it.

There are two chief types of motivation – extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Being extrinsically motivated means performing an activity to achieve some distinguishable outcome, such as avoiding punishment or earning a reward. But intrinsic motivation is driven by internal rewards where students engage in an activity or behave in a specific way because it’s naturally satisfying. Together, extrinsic and intrinsic motivations answer the ‘why’ students (and other individuals) do what they do. Thus, they make up the underlying attitudes, reasons, and objectives that trigger human behavior.

Some examples of intrinsically motivating actions are:

  •         John studying mathematics because he enjoys solving problems, not because he wants to please his parents
  •         Joanna playing the piano because she loves making music, not to steer clear of punishment
  •         Stephen volunteering because he enjoys helping others, not because he wants others to like him
  •         Sonia taking a walk to feel relaxed, not because she wants to lose weight
  •         Jack saying ‘thank you’ often because he likes to show appreciation, not because he needs to follow social rules
  •         Damon rustling up a delicacy because he loves cooking, not because she’s hungry

Being intrinsically motivated is believed to be better than extrinsic motivation because students belonging to the former group are more likely to be​ committed, successful, persistent, and creative. Typically, they display a stronger sense of personal commitment, accomplish better results, and perform with a lot more determination while being less likely to give up when facing adverse situations. Intrinsically motivated students are also more creative and more prone to have unique ideas and solutions.

Intrinsically motivated students perform activities and tasks because they make them feel satisfied or happy. These feelings are what psychologists call internal rewards or intrinsic rewards. These intrinsic rewards drive intrinsic motivation. An example of intrinsic reward is the sense of competence when a student masters a new skill or task.

Some things students can do to practice better intrinsic motivation are:

  •         Looking for a fun element in the task at hand or finding ways to make the task fun and engaging
  •         Finding meaning in a task by focusing on its purpose, the value it’ll add to their lives, and how it’ll help others
  •         Challenging themselves by setting attainable goals that focus on mastering a skill, not external rewards
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