Friday, 10 June 2011 21:50

Cooperation: The 7th Nurturing Force of Intrinsic Motivation

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Introduction

After sharing a story in last week’s blog post about the “bird signal” I used with a former student in an attempt to inspire him to be his very best, I return this week to describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation.  This post introduces the 7th of 10 forces I have identified that bring out the best in children by appealing to the best in them.

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.  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 #7: Cooperation

The type of classroom environment teachers create strongly affects student motivation and performance.  According to Howard Gardner, in his book Multiple Intelligences, cooperation is one environmental component that research has “shown to have a positive effect on students’ social and psychological well-being, which eventually leads to higher academic achievement.”

William Glasser adds, in the
Quality School, that cooperative learning should be the default mode in classrooms, and students should only work individually when there is a compelling reason.  In my own teaching I have my students work in pairs at least once or twice a day.  Cooperation nurtures intrinsic motivation because it satisfies our students’ need for belonging (another point Glasser emphasizes) and because it usually makes activities more enjoyable.  Furthermore, when kids work together, they are more likely to be successful at a given task than they would be alone.

As part of my initial training efforts each year (the first 4-6 weeks of the school year), I spend a great deal of time helping students develop the communication and social skills necessary to be successful in this type of endeavor.  Furthermore, I hold students accountable for staying on task so that they understand the importance of using their time well and being productive.

Students want to talk to each other, and they enjoy being social as they learn.  Scheduling cooperative learning activities on a regular basis capitalizes on this basic human need (rather than fight against it) and usually leads to higher quality learning.  


New Blog Posts appear every weekend of the school year.

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