How to Encourage Intrinsic Motivation in Your Student

6 min to read
A student is showing intrinsic motivation in school work

When we think of being inspired, we often have a teacher or mentor who comes to mind. That person encouraged and motivated us to be our very best. 

As a Learning Coach, it’s normal to want your child to achieve their full potential. It’s also common to want them to feel confident in their abilities. That can be accomplished by instilling intrinsic motivation in your online school student. The question is, how?

As adults, we often gravitate toward things because we find them fascinating, and procrastinate when it comes to tasks we find boring or unpleasant. To spark intrinsic learning, the same can be said for your student: it’s all about discovering their interests. 

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

Intrinsic motivation refers to engaging in a task because we find it satisfying or enjoyable. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you do things because they make you happy. For instance, you may paint a picture, play a game, or take a walk. These actions don’t necessarily produce an external reward; we do them because of the self-satisfaction we gain. 

Intrinsic motivation in the classroom may look like going the extra mile on a history assignment or completing extra credit work when your student is already passing with flying colors. It all starts with pursuing an activity for the enjoyment of it.

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards. These rewards or incentives are often immediate and tangible, such as getting an allowance for doing chores or extra screen time for your online school student when they finish their homework on time.

It’s no secret: Most people, including students, like to earn rewards for effort. You may have found yourself using extrinsic motivation to encourage your child to complete their homework in the past. However, genuine interest in learning can help your student excel longterm. 

Impact of Intrinsic Motivators in the Classroom

Intrinsic motivators in the classroom can produce more-creative students. Similar to the workplace, you are more likely to come up with your best ideas and solutions when you’re passionate about an assignment. With intrinsic learning, your child will enjoy school and the process of learning. They won’t look at learning as a way to receive an external reward. Instead, they’ll learn to see the value in growing as a student.

Instilling intrinsic factors in learning requires creativity, empathy, and strong communication skills. If you can create a positive environment that supports your child’s intrinsic motivation in the classroom, it can drive their learning and help them in their future career path.

Here are some ways you can support your K-12 students.

An online student uses a microscope as part of intrinsic learning.

Ways to Motivate Your Student

Make Learning Enjoyable

The easiest way to pique your student’s interest is by making learning enjoyable and fun. At Connections Academy®, although K-12 students attend LiveLesson® sessions, there are ways to keep your student’s mind engaged outside of formal classes to boost their love of learning. 

For example, students are likely to spend a considerable amount of time pursuing activities they enjoy outside school. Extracurricular activities are associated with a range of positive outcomes for children and adolescents. Finding ways to incorporate these interests is a great way to help them learn.

During a break in between lessons, you can do the unexpected. Instead of using that time as a traditional study session, create a stimulating experience that enforces learning. Let’s say your child is a soccer player. Take them to a park or venture to your backyard to tutor them in math while playing a soccer game. 

For younger children, have them count the soccer balls and keep track of the score. For older learners, you can implement more-challenging areas like multiplication and division. Ask them to calculate your score average during the game. This is a fun and creative way to challenge students to learn more about their schoolwork.

Rethink the Reward System

Motivating students to learn isn’t always easy. That’s one of the reasons we often rely on external motivators like contests, prizes, or parties. Grades can even be a form of extrinsic motivation. Think about it: when your online school student earns a good grade on an assignment, they often focus more on the grade earned rather than the work it took to accomplish that grade. 

A good way to help them find value in themselves and their efforts is to reinvent the reward wheel. For example, when they finish their homework, instead of encouraging them with a sweet treat, direct them to the bookshelf to choose a book of their liking. Or if they like to dance, challenge them to create a new dance routine.

This way, you’re merging their interests with learning. By starting off with these changes, incentivization can be a smart strategy for making your learner think outside the box. 

Make Your Student Feel Capable

A little motivation can go a long way. Instead of focusing on how your student’s grades will impact their academic success, encourage them when they’ve worked hard, even if they’ve earned less than an “A.” This may seem simple, but it can be key to their intrinsic motivation.

Some students may lack confidence in themselves and be discouraged to learn on their own. By using positive reinforcement, you’re creating self-confidence in their ability to learn independently. A simple “You can do it” can make all the difference in their learning. When you use encouraging vocabulary, you’re empowering your student to identify their strengths and be their best self.

An online student uses a microscope as part of intrinsic learning.

Encourage Collaboration

Students often enjoy sharing their knowledge or skills with others when they are well versed in a particular topic. For example, if your online school student excels in English, they might love being a tutor for other students. Working with their peers on a team and helping others might be the intrinsic motivation that leads them to pursue a college degree in teaching or literature.

You could also motivate your student to join a learning pod. By participating, they can create positive connections with teachers and peers. Plus, learning together is more fun. They will be able to glean knowledge from others and display what they’ve learned while studying independently. 

Build Your Student’s Autonomy

A great way to develop your student’s intrinsic motivation is by enhancing their learning autonomy. This doesn’t mean giving them complete control over their education or letting their hand go entirely but instead allowing them to own certain aspects of their learning process through their natural curiosity.

For example, instead of telling them the answer to a question, guide their thinking process through conversation. That way, they accept responsibility for what they learn, how they learn it, and how they solve the problem. Encouraging problem-solving will raise their awareness of when it’s necessary to take action and of their strengths in that particular arena.   

Extrinsic motivation will always have a time and place, but to see your child grow into an exceptional learner, it’s important to capitalize on their passions and interests.

If you need assistance in implementing intrinsic motivation in the classroom, check out these tips to help you empower your virtual school student.

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