The Science of Motivation is relatively new, but already there has been a number of scientific studies relative to motivation in the workplace, motivation in education, as well as simple daily task motivations. Given the overall nature of work, workplace motivation was studied first. From this developed the Incentive Theory of Motivation. Simply put, the idea is that people will behave in a certain way based on rewards and punishments. Think of this in terms of how laws are supposed to work. If you break the law, you are punished with fines and perhaps jail or prison time. If you don’t break the law, you are free to live your life.
Recent studies conducted at MIT have sought to uncover human motivation and behavior in the workplace. One such study was done with a small group in the USA centered on the basic model of reward and punishment, or the Incentive Theory of Motivation. In the initial phase of the study, individuals were given rewards for performing menial tasks that were more mechanical in nature and did not require much thought. Later, these results were compared to another group that conducted high cognition tasks, work requiring a lot of thinking, and the results were surprising.
The group that worked on menial tasks for a simple reward outperformed those who were tasked with highly creative work, or work that required a lot of thought. The researchers were baffled by this and tried the experiment elsewhere only to receive similar results. While incentives are still used in the workplace to raise job performance, their results vary widely and many times businesses are at a lost on how to motivate their employees. This is especially true when the reward of more money doesn’t seem to work.
Today in 2022, you still find promises of more pay to be the most effective for jobs that are more mechanical like warehouse workers at Amazon or people who just need to complete basic tasks. However, more businesses are turning to more creative ways to incentivize their employees and increase productivity. This has become more apparent with what some news channels refer to as the Great Resignation. There are a lot of ideas of how to properly motivate employees, but what about students?
Since the beginning of modern education, schools, teachers, and parents have relied on the incentive theory of motivation to get their students to perform better. But does this work? And if it doesn’t work, what are the options? One thing is sure. Motivation is key. All the intelligence and talent can mean very little if you have no motivation to apply yourself.
What is Learning Motivation? When we think of learning motivation, we naturally arrive at the idea that it is the motivation to learn.
When we see a student with good grades and other academic achievements, we tend to assume that this student is more motivated to learn than those without good grades. Oftentimes, we may think of an underachiever as simply lacking the motivation to learn, and we make a mistake of thinking that some are motivated, and some are not; or, we think “successful” students are just more motivated than unsuccessful students.
This is a mistake, and a common one, when comparing students who do well and those who struggle, or simply never even try. The truth is everyone is motivated to learn, and it isn’t the amount of motivation we have overall, but the intensity of motivation toward certain academic subjects and areas in life. To get a better understanding of learning motivation, we need to look at intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors that influence every individuals’ life in and out of school.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic motivation is Internal vs. External:
Teachers have more success than parents in motivation students. But how to motivate?
Professor Deborah Stipek of Stanford University stated that you must have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for academic success.
Traditional teaching methods offer extrinsic motivators (reword & punishment) exclusively.
“Intrinsic motivation describes the undertaking of an activity for its inherent satisfaction while extrinsic motivation describes behavior driven by external rewards or punishments, abstract or concrete.”
Simply put, intrinsic motivation is doing something for the joy of doing it, while extrinsic motivation is doing something to achieve a reward or avoid punishment.
For education, we focus on learning motivation, usually driven by curiosity and a willingness to develop skills.
There needs to be a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. If all motivation is extrinsic, students rely on the reward of the grade or rank, and if they fail to gain that, they may easily give up. In contrast, if there is only intrinsic motivation, then the student will only be motivated to learn what they want to learn – which may not align with mandatory curriculum/class content.
How do we find the balance?
Find the intrinsic motivations that impact the subject we must learn in school.
We can be intrinsically motivated to study robotics, but extrinsically motivated to win a competition.
Learning PQ is a wonderful way to uncover the internal (intrinsic) motivations of your student toward all subjects in school and areas in life, such as future careers.
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 Differences of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation, Charlotte Nickerson, 01 Dec 2021