Motivation - American EducationThose collective needs and desires that drive an individual to act and, in education, to learn. Many educators divide motivation into two types, intrinsic and extrinsic. The former refers to a student’s inner drive to learn—a drive visible in infants and preschool youngsters whose curiosity often serves as intrinsic motivation to acquire skills and knowledge. Extrinsic motivation is derived from external forces such as reward and punishment by parents, teachers and other authorities.
Developed in the preschool and elementary school years, motivation is essential to learning. It is, therefore, essential that elementary school teachers develop techniques and strategies to motivate each student. Extrinsic motivation is quite often successful in encouraging or discouraging simplistic behavior and learning, but seldom a success in developing long-term motivation to learn complex information. Intrinsic motivation sustains a child’s willingness to work hard when rewards may be far in the future or when the only reward may be the joy of learning.
Pedagogically, the task of developing a child’s intrinsic motivation centers around putting a youngster in command of the learning situation rather than making him or her a passive target at which to throw information. In effect, teachers must create learning activities in which all students want to participate and master and in which they can all find conditions for success. Learning activities that are too difficult or too easy destroy children’s intrinsic motivation and encourage the common belief that learning success or failure is the result of innate ability rather than hard work. It is the teacher’s task to select the right mix of activities for as wide a range as possible of students to succeed through hard work.