Friday, 29 April 2011 21:50

Contribution: The 2nd Nurturing Force of Intrinsic Motivation

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In this blog post I continue describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation.  I have identified ten of these forces, and I will describe one per post over the next few months.  Focusing on and emphasizing these forces helps teachers create an engaging, productive classroom environment that brings out the best in students.  For teachers who may be a bit nervous about the prospect of managing a group of children without relying on rewards and punishments, these forces offer a far more powerful, far more genuine alternative to traditional classroom management approaches that are rooted in Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and depend on extrinsic motivation.


These forces work synergistically to create an environment where quality can flourish.  No extrinsic motivators, either alone or in combination, can come close to producing such results.  No student has ever been rewarded or punished into excellence.  True success comes only when we bring out the very best in our students.  And in order for us to bring the best out of our students, we must appeal to the best in them.  These forces do just that.  

In addition to promoting student desire to engage in specific tasks, these forces benefit a classroom more generally.  Collectively, they build morale and enthusiasm for learning, enhance self-esteem, deepen the sense of connection individuals feel to the classroom and to one another, and increase student willingness to put forth sustained effort.

Nurturing Force #2: Contribution

Students will be more motivated to engage in a task when their work contributes to the well-being of others.  One example of this phenomenon is cross-age-tutoring, where older students assist younger ones.  I have heard many stories about struggling fifth or sixth grade students whose lives were turned around after having the opportunity to help struggling younger students.  I have seen similar increases in motivation when classes stage performances for senior citizens’ centers or become involved in environmental causes.


In addition, in recent years I have had my students participate in two other endeavors that I’m excited to share.  First, I have asked my students to dictate their Writing Workshop fiction stories into a tape recorder to create books on tape for visually impaired children.  My students enjoyed this project very much, and it gave them an authentic opportunity to practice reading with fluency and expression.

Second, as part of our Health Champions unit, students worked in groups to teach lessons to our school’s kindergarten classes.  My third graders planned the lessons, prepared the materials, and determined everyone’s role during the lesson.  Teaching the lesson improved my students‘ understanding and retention of the content we learned and also improved their leadership and cooperation skills.  

Helping others brings out the best in us and offers a win-win situation for everyone involved.  Take advantage of these benefits by seeking out opportunities for your kids to put their learning to use in the service of others.

New Blog Posts appear every weekend of the school year.

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