Motivation: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic

Motivation: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic

Motivation is a driving force behind the learning that often determines whether children will be able to succeed academically and professionally. Scientists and educators alike speak about two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is characterised by a deep-seated interest in expanding one’s own knowledge and abilities. When children are intrinsically motivated their path to learning is accompanied by the enthusiasm, curiosity, passion and the joy of discovery. Such children learn because they genuinely like to learn and do not expect anything external in return for their efforts apart from a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction after mastering a challenging topic or skill.

Extrinsic motivation, however, comes from without and is sustained by an external reward or punishment such as good grades, praise, prizes, detention, etc. If children are driven by extrinsic motivators then they are forced to learn because it is required of them to complete the tasks, earn grades, and be good performers. Consequently, learning experience reinforced by the external rewards only turns into a mandatory and dull activity that crushes children’s natural eagerness and creativity. When administered too often, rewards even become addictive and may have detrimental effects on the internal motivation and self-esteem as children begin to expect something from outside to have their abilities and performance validated.

Our role as teachers, tutors or parents is to ensure that children are not just motivated but also correctly motivated to learn and perform. To achieve this, it is recommended to create a learning environment that instills and establishes the balance between both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivators, for instance, can be used to overcome initial child’s resistance and to hook them into doing an activity. Once the child’s interest ripens, we can gradually hand the ownership of the learning into their hands by offering guidance on how and where to find best learning materials, how to plan and set goals as well as to encourage the culture of curiosity and inquisitiveness that goes beyond grades and rewards.


Jurgita is a maths tutor with Newman Tuition. To book a lesson with her, or one of our other excellent tutors, please call us on 020 3198 8006, email us at hello@newmantuition.co.uk, or complete the form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.

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