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intrinsic motivation is a motivation to learn that comes from an

internal force such as interest in language learning or the desire for

further personal development in general. It compares with extrinsic
motivation, which is motivation from external pressures such as the
need to speak English for work or because a parent has sent a learner
to class.

Often high level learners show a high degree of intrinsic motivation as
they continue to study a language beyond any practical need.

In the classroom
Sometimes learners join a class because of extrinsic
motivation and become motivated intrinsically as learning becomes
enjoyable and rewarding. Getting feedback from the learners on the
teaching and learning process through simple questionnaires about
aspects of class can help a teacher identify what students find most
useful and enjoyable.


Even if you think you already know the answer to this question, there is a need to reexamine the
definition here, as it applies directly to the topic at hand. According the article on Igniting a Love
of Learning in All Students plainly put: Intrinsic motivation is the natural curiosity and desire to
learn that we are all born with. We experience intrinsic motivation when we find ourselves
seeking answers to a question that intrigues us or pushing ourselves to work hard to master a
skill. Extrinsic motivation is when we work for an external reward or to avoid an external
punishment provided by someone else (Gianni 2010). The authors continue: When students
are extrinsically motivated, they participate because they expect a desirable outcome like a
reward or avoidance of punishment (Gianni 2010). However, when an intrinsic mode for
learning has been accessed and incorporated into the learning environment, student
engagement increases, where profound student learning begins its process of becoming a
deep-seated trend in their own personal learning style.

Further quoting the depth of the article as it applies to student learning: Researchers have
found that intrinsic beliefs in our ability to be successful influence our level of motivation, and
that working on a task for intrinsic reasons rather than extrinsic influences are not only more
enjoyable for the participant, but it also facilitates learning and achievement. Researchers also
have found that people have an innate desire to learn for the sake of learning and that this
intrinsic desire is connected to our engagement in learning new concepts or skills (Gianni
2010). And while, extrinsic rewards have been shown to be effective when used with students
who were not intrinsically motivated, this form of incentive was only effective when rewards
were given initially followed by increasingly longer periods of time in which no rewards were
given to reinforce effort and persistence. The authors continue: Extrinsic rewards must be
given immediately following the success, as people in general and middle school students in
particular are not motivated by rewards that are too far in the future. Researchers have also
found that extrinsic praise or positive reinforcement of behaviors such as effort or persistence
rather than fixed traits such as intelligence can increase behaviors associated with motivation.
(Gianni 2010)

Now that we have established the difference between the two types of motivation, and which
one is preferred for developing long-term learning patterns that will endure beyond the
classroom, the authors further discuss the rationale that addresses the two contrasting forms. In
addition to advocating for the lifelong learner in each of us, particularly our students, the authors
continue to offer insight into the value of the daily learners innate desire to learn and grow,
acknowledging that: Learning and intrinsic motivation are also mutually reinforcing; intrinsic
motivation facilitates learning, and when students acquire new skills and observe their own
growth, they feel more successful and their intrinsic desire to learn increases. However, while
taking the time to establish an individualized learning environment that accounts for the
personal motivation of each and every student certainly sacrifices time better spent working
towards proficiency, because indeed, instilling intrinsic motivation is a longer process that may
use some external rewards, but (that time spent building a learning community) really focuses
on self-improvement and helps students to shift from doing something for a reward or for a
teacher or parent to doing something for themselves. (Gianni 2010).

Giani, Matt, and OGuinn, Christina. Motivation to Learn: Igniting a Love of Learning in All
Students. John W. Garder Center at Stanford University. 2010. PDF file retrieved

Psychologists have identified two distinct forms of motivation: intrinsic and

extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to an inherent interest in pursing a topic (learning

for learnings sake). These individuals find a subject enjoyable and they naturally desire to

learn mastery of it. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to a desire to pursue a

subject for reasons outside of the individual, such as rewards, grades, parental or instructor

approval, etc. These individuals are motivated to learn a subject not because they want to

learn it, but because learning the material will get them good grades, parental praise, or

because jobs in that field pay well; all of which are external rewards.

As an instructor, there are multiple ways for you to foster intrinsic motivation in your

students. Some of these include:

1. Create a student-centered classroom. When students are involved in their

own learning, they are more intrinsically motivated. Allow students to have a say in the
course where possible and try to incorporate an active learning activity every 15-20


2. Promote a mastery goal, rather than a performance goal. If students are

motivated to gain mastery, rather than simply aiming for a performance goal, they are

more likely to invest more effort into their own learning. Therefore, try to foster in

students a goal of becoming fluent in Spanish, rather than having them focus on getting

an A in the class. In addition, de-emphasize grades and emphasize the intrinsic

rewards of learning.

3. Encourage students actions, not their character or person. By using

statements of encouragement like, your answers showed thought as opposed to you

are a good thinker, students are more likely to remain intrinsically motivated (Ginott,

1972). Focus on their effort, not their innate ability. With that, avoid using statements

that suggest that innate ability is all that is required to complete a project. Direct

students attention to the process of completing the project and the effort involved,

rather than on the end product.

4. Provide learning goals. Research has shown that when teachers give learners a

goal, students experience a boost in self-efficacy (Bandura, 1988; Elliot & Dweck,

1988; Schunk, 1991). By providing clear learning goals at the beginning of class or

before an activity, students may be more intrinsically motivated to work toward those


5. Have high, but realistic expectations for students. Davis (2009) noted that

instructors expectations can have a powerful effect on students performance. She

notes that standards should be set high enough to challenge students and motivate

them to do their best without being so high that students feel they are unattainable. If

students believe achievement is within their grasp, they will work toward that goa