What is Motivation?
Quite simply, motivation is what drives you to make choices and to take action. You might find yourself motivated by different factors for different activities. For example, you may be motivated to play a game of chess so you can win; you may be motivated to complete your homework because you know you will be in trouble if you don’t do it; or you may be motivated to revise your favourite subject because you enjoy learning about it.
Motivation and motivating factors are often unique to each individual, depending upon their interests and previous experiences.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Academics often discuss two main forms of motivation; intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000a).
Intrinsic motivation is when an individual is motivated internally because they enjoy the activity at hand or are driven by the feeling of learning and success. An example is when people are motivated to queue up to buy their favourite food; they know that they will enjoy eating the food, even if they have to wait.
It is a desirable behaviour within education because students who display high levels of intrinsic motivation also become better learners and demonstrate increased creativity (Ryan and Deci, 2000b).
An example of intrinsic motivation would be deciding to read a relevant book that is not on your reading list, purely for interest, or for the enjoyment of learning something new.
Extrinsic motivation is when an individual is motivated by external factors to do a given activity, like stickers, rewards, money, or to avoid punishment. This is often seen in classrooms with reward charts on display, merits, or house points, possibly because it can be controlled and encouraged by someone who wants the individual to do well.
An example of extrinsic motivation would be a child trying hard in school only to win the end of week reward, or a GCSE student only revising because they were offered a reward from their families if they achieve a certain number of grade 9s.
Whilst extrinsic motivation may seem like the less desirable form of motivation, sometimes it is possible for extrinsic motivation to positively impact on someone’s intrinsic motivation. A good example would be if you were only motivated to do your Physics homework because you did not want to receive a detention if you did not complete the task (extrinsic motivation), but after a few lessons, your teacher eventually makes you realise that it is an extremely exciting subject and you now want to find out more and become excited to attend Physics lessons (intrinsic motivation).
When we are talking about motivation, it is important to consider the impacts of social motivation.
Social motivation is the desire to meet the expectations of adults (both parents and teachers) and peers (Wentzel, 1996). This includes behavioural, academic, and social expectations. Wentzel‘s research has shown that students often choose to focus on achieving the social expectations of behaviour as a priority, meaning that even if a student is not intrinsically motivated to complete a task, they may be socially motivated to complete the activity as this is the expectation of their friends and teacher.
Although it may be challenging to be aware of how social motivation influences your own actions, it can be a useful technique to use. For example, you may choose to ask a friend to help you revise. Due to your friend’s expectation that you will revise with them, you are now more likely to do this revision than if you had not shared your goal with your friend – you won’t want to let them down!
It is important to remember that as time passes and as you experience new learning opportunities, your goals are likely to change or at least have their order of priority adjusted.
How Does Motivation Impact On Learning?
In general, individuals who are motivated are more driven to achieve their targets and goals, even if this requires additional perseverance and persistence (Gregory & Kaufeldt, 2015). They are more willing to learn, study, and engage with the content; therefore subsequently might be more likely to achieve better marks (Zyngier, 2008).
How Can I Be More Motivated?
Everybody wants to know how to be more motivated, especially when learning, but unfortunately, there is no magic ingredient! What motivates one person may not motivate another. The trick is to find out what motivates you.
To start thinking about what motivates you, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you want to learn? Is it so you can know more, achieve a certain grade, do yourself proud, access a particular career path, or reach university?
- How is the information you are learning relevant to you?
Remember that your motivation for different subjects will be different. You are probably more likely to be motivated to study and revise for your favourite subjects (probably the ones you are better at!), but it is just as, if not more important to focus on the subjects you need more work on.
Top tips on how to motivate yourself more!
It can often be challenging to motivate yourself to do things you don’t want to do, or find a little tricky. Don’t worry because everyone feels like that sometimes!
Here are a few top tips to help you motivate yourself more:
- Enjoy learning! You are lucky to be gaining knowledge and to have access to an education.
- As you get older you are more likely to have the opportunity to specialise in your favourite subjects, which is why you need to focus on the breadth of knowledge available to you now, as ideas may link up later!
- Share your goals and aims with your teachers, family, and friends. If you can start up a study group, you will be more likely to achieve your study goals.
- Reward yourself when you have worked for a certain length of time. For example, after revising for a few hours, you might reward yourself by listening to a piece of music, going for a walk, reading a book, or having a break.
- Now is the best time to start!
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.
~ Chinese Proverb
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