Intrinsic Motivation, or Lack Thereof

I’ve now completed my fourth week of student teaching, and one of the recurring themes I keep running into in educational cyberspace as well as in school is that of intrinsic motivation for students.  One of my previous posts discussed the use of incentives based classroom management strategies as a tool to create a positive learning environment.  There were some comments that I received decrying the use of these tools, describing them as mere gimmicks to get students to the classroom and that there should be pedagogical concepts applied to instill some sort of intrinsic motivation for students.

While this all sounds nice on paper, and I’m sure works very well in certain settings, I’ve found that it does not manifest itself as well in students from an urban setting.  Many times, students do not have that foundation of support from their family, friends, and others in their network.  If you’re eager to apply theory to the thought, then look at it from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  In order to move up the pyramid, one needs to accomplish the things on the bottom levels first.  The bottom level includes physiological needs like, breathing, food, water, etc.  The next level up is safety, which includes security, family, health, etc.  For many students in an urban environment, their progress up the pyramid stops there, which makes it difficult for them to even have a desire to be successful in the classroom, when so much is going wrong outside of school.

There are so many factors that are out of the control of the teacher, and make it difficult to produce this successful and dynamic product, your student.  As I have discussed with others before, students sometimes get treated like widgets on paper, and people forget that there are real people involved and a basic business model cannot always be applied to education, as so many would like to do.

Having said that, this is why I think its important to create that positive learning environment for students, and if that includes using such tools as incentives based class management tools, then so be it.  If that allows you, as an educator, to make a better connection with your students, then that is a good thing, and should not be glossed over so quickly.

About Pat

Pat Riley is student teaching at Amundsen High School in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood for the fall of 2010. He will be teaching Contemporary American History, starting just before the Civil War, as he works towards his Type 9 certificate with an endorsement in History and hopefully Business. Previously, he worked in public relations and business development for a law firm in Chicago, but decided his passion was education. Prior to working in public relations and business development, Mr. Riley received a B.S. in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Marketing from Indiana University. Follow his blog at Musings on Apples and Education.
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2 Responses to Intrinsic Motivation, or Lack Thereof

  1. EducationStudent says:

    This blog actually popped up on my google alerts. I like what you have done on this blog thus far. I am looking forward to following it in the future. Is there an e-mail address where you can be reached directly?

  2. I don’t always agree with your posts, but this was dead on, way to go!