Friday, 06 May 2011 21:50

Interest: The 3rd Nurturing Force of Intrinsic Motivation

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In this blog post I continue describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation.  Instead of trying to gain temporary obedience from our students through the use of rewards and punishments, these forces help us in our attempts to win our students’ hearts and minds and enlist a genuine commitment to the worthwhile aims and objectives we are trying to promote in our classrooms.


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 #3: Interest

Since intrinsic motivation is often defined in terms of the interest that individuals find in a task, it makes sense that in order to increase the motivation of our students, we should attempt to make tasks as interesting as possible.  There’s a direct relationship between the two concepts.  

There are three primary ways I help my students find more interest and enjoyment in their academic work: promoting a hands-on approach, providing for as much student choice as possible, and encouraging the kids to determine their preferred learning style.  

Interest can also be cultivated in non-academic tasks.  My students and I are always looking for ways to add interest to tasks that may otherwise be quite mundane.  My favorite example deals with how I excuse the kids for recess.  When I taught first grade, I excused one table at a time to walk to the yard.  “Table A, you may go, Table D, you may go, etc.”  When I made the switch to third and fourth grade, I tried another approach.  

Here’s how it works.  First, I select a student volunteer to pick a category, such as foods, animals, or sports.  Next, I ask the kids to think of their favorite item in that category.  Once the students have all done so, I start naming individual items.  Students have permission to leave the room as soon as I name their item.  My goal is to see if I can name the favorites of every student in the room without any clues from them.  I always call the most obvious items first, such as baseball, football, and basketball, if the category is favorite sport.  After I name the obvious items, most of the kids leave, but there are always a few remaining.  (Oftentimes, the kids stay to watch even after their favorites have been called.)  I then proceed to the lesser-known ones to see who else leaves.  Inevitably, there are two or three kids left who experience great delight in knowing that I haven’t called their favorite yet.   The kids take great pride in their ability to stump me.  At some point, I surrender and ask them to tell me their favorite.  Because the category changes each day, every child has many chances to stump me.  


This method of excusing students takes a little more time, but it’s time well spent.  It gives us the opportunity to bond, to learn more about one another, and to express different aspects of our personalities.  It’s also fun.  Sometimes, depending on the category, it’s even educational.  Above all, though, it’s a way for us to generate interest where none had existed before.  


Seek out ways to add interest to both the academic and non-academic aspects of your classroom.

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Read 25138 times Last modified on Monday, 18 November 2013 19:04

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