Many teachers have historically incorporated gifts or other external stimuli to engage students. To clarify the difference between external and internal motivation is simple. Internal motivation comes from within the student and external motivation is from an external stimulus. Do you remember a teacher in your past who used threats to motivate students? How about a teacher who used rewards such as candy? These are both positive and negative forms of external motivation. Research shows that using extrinsic motivation is only effective to produce an immediate response. In the long run, it can be counterproductive in producing free and logical thinkers.
How does this lesson translate into the classroom? Empower your students through choice. In my GIA class, I provide center based lessons for the students to rotate and choose their activity. My students enjoy having a multitude of activity options, as well as, the ability to move between the centers and not spend too much time on one single activity. I have found that this significantly improves the quality of education in my classroom.
Not every student comes equipped with an innate passion for education. My job as a teacher is to guide the students to love learning. I do this by infusing my passion into every subject. I help the students self-visualize success by modeling behaviors. I use a variety of ‘think alouds’ to model how they handle an array of problems. In GIA, we have a document called the Journey to Excellence, J2E. It has four guiding principles: integrity, honor, respect, and dignity. Think-alouds with the J2E lead the students to positive self-talk and good decision making. Students that are able to exhibit these qualities work well in groups and will be more equipped for the real world.
Praise the journey, not the task. Make praise specific and reach outside of the classic ‘good job’. Say for example, ‘ I noticed you spent your time researching during recess, looks like you are very interested in the topic. Could you teach me about that?’ This not only adds authenticity to the praise, but helps develop the student’s awareness and in turn develops internal motivation.
In GIA, we regularly discuss intrinsic motivation and have set-up weekly challenges for teachers to implement authentic praise and provide choice-based opportunities. This year, we have adopted the theme ‘Reach for the Stars’. We want the students to realize that they can have, do or be anything they want. We will be conducting activities and assemblies throughout the year to help our students along their chosen paths.
My suggestion for all new teachers this year is to help your students reach for the stars. It will always be easy to give the students a quick piece of candy to get their attention; however, this is a dangerous pitfall for beginning teachers. Remember our goal is to prepare them for the future. Build their love of education and remember that the key to success is internal.