Yesterday I talked about my origin story for starting BraveHeart and something that came up for me was just how fascinating it is that we are all so different. When I was a middle manager in a large Corporate motivating staff to work well was a daily focus. Now as a parent of teenagers motivation is a dirty word it seems!
In education of course motivation can be complicated. As adults I think we sometimes expect children and young people to just be motivated to learn because we tell them to, or that they can get themselves out of bed enthusiastic to learn. The problem is of course for many children and definitely teenagers there are so many other things happening in their lives that can demand their attention and their motivations.
We talk about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. What is the difference?
Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you.
It’s not that extrinsic is wrong or bad but the problem is that when the reward or punishment isn’t there we stumble to move forward – we need outside influence in order to achieve. This is how education seems to work. We are encouraging children to be motivated by external rewards and punishment hoping that they will internalise and move to intrinsic motivation. In other words, we hope that if we over praise and/or sanction to motivate over time the child will naturally want to do the task. This doesn’t seem to be the case though.
I came across a blog whilst researching for this and I found it very interesting. It talks about the overjustification effect; the negative impact of over rewarding.
Of course, finding ways to encourage intrinsic motivation is not easy, especially when our educational system and society demand we behave in a certain way. I found this in a work context – people are motivated by different things and knowing people is the first step to understanding how to create the right environment for individuals to achieve. The same is true in school and in our homes.
What about us? The first place to start I guess is with yourself. Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I excited about when I wake up in the morning?
- What helps me to keep going when I get stuck?
- What makes me feel valued?
- What am I most proud of?
- If I could tell someone else how to motivate me what would I say?