Motivation and Engagement

Application to PLT Theory

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

on October 10, 2013

Before I began this degree, I had no concept of the complexity of motivation and engagement. I was under the impression that you could either be self-motivated, be motivated by others, or unmotivated; and engaged was only in relation to marriage. However, after learning a bit more about motivation and engagement, I have been able to broaden my understanding of the language of motivation and its key concepts.

Motivation has two types, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation has been described, at a basic level, as doing something due to its inherent satisfactions and extrinsic motivation as doing something because it results in an independent outcome (Ryan & Deci, 2000). What I found most interesting when doing this research were the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

[Types of Motivators] Courtesy of Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger. Copyright: CC-Att-ND (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported) Sourced: on 10.10.13

In this diagram it shows some differences between the two types of motivation. It also illustrates how extrinsic motivation and the use of reward and punishment is like motivating someone by dangling a carrot from a stick, they are not thinking about the task or goal they are trying to achieve, but about the reward or punishment they will receive when they achieve or fail to achieve the task. Extrinsic motivation has direct links to a behavioural theory, which B.F. Skinner created around the principals of ‘operant conditioning’ and ‘learning through reinforcement’ (Barker, 2012). This can be described as creating a behaviour based on exposure to external stimuli, for example a student may consistently forget to do their homework, but faced with the possibility of punishment the student may fear the consequence enough to complete their homework on time. In this case, the behaviour that was created was handing their homework in on time, and the stimulus was the fear of punishment, hence this is an extrinsic motivation as the students are only completing the task because of the independent outcome.

Behavioural theory and extrinsic motivation only have so much effect on a students learning, as they seem associated with ‘surface’ rather than ‘deep’ forms of learning. A ‘deep’ approach to learning is connected with intrinsic motivation as it provides opportunities to look for conceptual understandings rather than just rote learning through ‘surface’ approaches (Duchesne, McMaugh, Bochner, & Krause, 2013).

In the diagram above, types of intrinsic motivation are ones that provide a sense of autonomy, self-esteem, self-worth, and purpose. These are independent, individual, and specific to each person, which essentially means that everyone is motivated by something different. The diagram below holds a similar perspective on the attributes of intrinsic motivation.

[Intrinsic Motivation] Contributions to are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial 3.0 License Sourced from: on 10.10.13

As a teacher, we need to create an environment that can provide opportunities for students to display these qualities. As per the diagram above, for students to be motivated they need to be interested and enjoy what they are doing, be able to work autonomously/ independently, develop their competencies, and be satisfied by the results they have achieved. The environment for this to happen is inherently different for each student, but the best the teacher can do is provide an engaging environment for students to explore their passions and interests and hopefully foster motivation towards any goals the students may create.

One thing that has become blatantly clear to me over the course of this research is that motivation and engagement are not the same thing. It is important to recognise that engagement is about actively participating during the learning process (Ministry of Education, 2003), and teachers create engaging environments to foster motivation in students. Emotional engagement links closely to motivation and often provides students with the passion to take ownership of their own learning (Ministry of Education, 2003). Students who emerge from the engaging classroom environment and are passionate, goal orientated, self-directed, and receive a lot of positive feedback from people (including teachers) that they have a relationship with, are more likely to be intrinsically motivated than the students who base their self-worth off others opinions. These are the students that teachers like me need to really build those relationships with and create different environments that the students can engage in, also to try and help foster their motivation.

Reference List:

Duchesne, S., McMaugh, A., Bochner, S., & Krause, K. (2013). Educational psychology for learning and teaching (4th ed.). Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning.

McGee, C., & Fraser, D. (2012). The professional practice of teaching. (4th ed.). Auckland, NZ: Cenage Learning.

Ministry of Education. (2003). Effective literacy practice in years 1-4. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54-67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020


Types of Motivators. (n.d.). Retrieved from: on 10 October 2013.

Intrinsic Motivation. (n.d.). Retrieved from: on 10 October 2013.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: