Motivation in the Classroom

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley June 13th, 2024 · 2min read

The reading this week is from Evidence-Based Education and discusses a theory of motivation and its application to the classroom.

Key points

  • Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2008) distinguishes between two kinds of motivation.
  • The first is autonomous motivation, wherein an individual has a sense of volition or control—which may stem from intrinsic or extrinsic factors
  • The second is controlled motivation, in which an individual feels pressure (either through explicit rewards or punishment or through internal feelings like guilt or shame) to think or behave in particular ways.
  • Autonomous motivation (characterised by a feeling of volition) is promoted when individuals feel that three basic needs are met: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
  • Autonomy refers to an individual feeling that they choose their behaviour and that it is aligned with their values and interests. For example, an interesting experiment published in 2010 compared the effects of two different approaches to homework. During one unit of work, some high school students were given two options for the homework tasks they were to undertake; the other students were given no choice.In these experimental conditions, providing students with a choice had a positive effect on their feelings of intrinsic motivation to do homework and on a sense of competence about the homework, as well as on subsequent test performance (Patall et al., 2010)Anyone who has looked after children may recognise this strategy of asking which vegetable a child would like may be more successful than asking whether the child would like vegetables or not.

Read the article, Motivation in the classroom.


Happy coaching,


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