How to Increase Students Intrinsic Motivation?

Kendra Adams
Kendra Adams Community Member
Do you have a Progressive philosophy of education? If you believe that learning should be built on students' prior knowledge and experiences, guided by students' interests, actively constructed through problem-solving and metacognition, and provide opportunities for students to self-regulate their practice-then the answer is yes! I believe that creating intrinsic motivation is essential to an educator who is driven by a Progressive philosophy of education. Mike Anderson's article, "6 Intrinsic Motivators to Power Up Your Teaching" (see the link) a great introduction to intrinsic motivation.

This article explains that students are driven by the intrinsic motivators of autonomy, belonging, competence, purpose, fun and curiosity. Students develop self-motivation when they have some choice over what or how they are learning. This is definitely an area of growth for me. The majority of my assessments are entry slips, concept sorts, experiment reflection questions, unit assessments, and the odd performance assessment. In order to increase student autonomy I could give students more choice in how they show their learning, where they work, and which materials they use. I would really like to incorporate more performance assessments into my teaching.

A second intrinsic motivator is when students feel a sense of belonging with others. I think that this is well-established in my classroom. I spend a lot of time throughout the year helping students build social skills, fostering effective group work, and structuring student-to-student conversation through protocols such as think-pair-shares.

Competence is also intrinsically motivating, and in order for all students to experience this feeling, differentiation is needed. I provide support for all my students through universal design such as having clear learning goals, accessing students background knowledge through activities such as KWL charts, continuously clarifying students’ understanding of key vocabulary, providing sentence frames or graphic organizers for written work, using students as instructional supports for one another, and optimizing access to tools and assistive technologies.

Teachers can create a sense of purpose, another ingredient for intrinsic motivation, by creating authentic tasks and sharing their learning with a meaningful audience. Again, I think that by focusing on performance assessments, where students produce a product, report, experiment or performance that they can share with their peers would increase my student’s sense of purpose.

When learning is enjoyable, students' intrinsic motivation increases. One of my primary concerns as I engage in the planning process is how I can make learning fun. I accomplish this through the use of games (Kahoot, Headgames), role plays, experiments, building models, and incorporating student discussion.

Incorporating students’ curiosity is another thing teachers can do to increase students’ motivation. Some ways that I can connect the learning goals of grade seven science to students’ interests is through more independent research projects. Which of the 6 intrinsic motivators are the strongest in your practice?
Which might be strengthened?


  • Maira Khalid
    Maira Khalid Community Member
    edited August 1

    Hello Kendra, my name is Maira Khalid and currently I am taking a course titled "integrated planning, instruction and assessment" for my "professional master of education" degree. We learned about the different philosophical foundations that shaped the curriculum, the conceptions of curriculum and the curriculum designs teachers use. I realized that contemporary curriculum conceptions such as "Social Resconstructionism" and "Humanistic/Personal Relevenace" (also tied to the progressivism philosophical foundation) of curriculum are most popular as they correspond to a problem/society based curriculum design and learner based curriculum design. Recent research suggests that assessments pertaining the learner centered curriculum design and problem/society based curriculum yield a more in-depth knowledge about the curriculum. The best way to assess student learning is through portfolios, essays, journals, reflections, projects rather than the performance or standardized test. You mention the crucial role of intrinsic motivation. I follow the same school of thought, learning should be relevant as in this manner students will be more eager to learn. Additionally, you mentioned that you make learning more fun by playing games such as Kahoot. I am interested in learning more ways where I can make learning and assessments more student centred in order so they are more motivated to learned.