Serif in Education

Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation: which do you have?

Have you heard these terms before? Ever wondered what the difference is between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? I’ve definitely heard the terms, but I was particularly intrigued to find out which I have, so explored a little further.

To start with, the clearest difference between the two types of motivation is the goal of the learner. So if a student is intrinsically motivated, they are essentially inwardly motivated – they find the study process enjoyable and learning new ideas a reward. Extrinsically motivated students however, are encouraged by external influences, such as teacher or peer praise or the reward of a good grade.

Intrinsically motivated students usually perform better in classroom activities, because they are willing and eager to learn new material. Their learning experience is more meaningful, and they will explore deeper into a subject to fully understand it. Extrinsically motivated students on the other hand, may have to be effectively ‘bribed’ to perform the same tasks and are inclined to put in the minimal effort to try and get the maximal reward.

So how can you, as teachers encourage extrinsically motivated learners to put in that little bit more? Classroom technology might be just the tool. You might well know the feeling of getting that new piece of technology in your hands – you want to press every button to see just what it can do. If you have a class with extrinsically motivated students, they are likely to be enticed by the ‘wow factor’ of the classroom technology, and become motivated learners as a result.

Yet, the technology can also play a valuable role in coaxing out their ‘intrinsic’ side. According to Mark Lepper, leading theorist in social psychology (1988), the four ‘C’s could help provide an answer –

- Control – promote the learner’s sense of control over activities

- Challenge – provide students with a continuously challenging activity

- Curiosity – provoke the learner’s curiosity

- Contextualisation – highlight the functionality of the activity

Giving students the chance to take control of the learning process and help guide and define the lesson, is important to their sense of participation and their motivation.

The classroom climate is important too; in an inclusive environment where everyone’s opinion is recognised and respected, all students are more likely to participate more fully. Classroom technology that can facilitate collaborative learning can have a valuable impact here. Why not get your students to work together in MoviePlus and find out if it works?!

Giving every child the chance to get involved and have their answers heard, can also help. This can feed into providing a continuously challenging lesson process, where students are given regular feedback on their accomplishments as they answer right or wrong, with goal posts that can be easily shifted and adjusted to maintain the motivation.

If teachers can present learning as flexible, rewarding and of natural interest to the student with the help of classroom technology, it is more likely that intrinsic and extrinsic students will all be motivated!

Do you have any particular ways of motivating either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated students using Serif? Let us know by tweeting @SerifEducation or emailing