Motivation in education

Throughout history educational systems have encouraged like thinking and like ways of work aka “the norm.” There have been those, however, who thrived with the mentality of thinking outside the norm.  For many, this mentality was the right choice and produced intrinsically motivated history makers, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Ayn Rand, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs.  As any glimpse into history may show, outside the norm thinking has contributed the most significant contributions to society.

The rank and file of employed and unemployed workers today is a product of educational systems.  Current unemployment rates should prompt review of the shift in education over the past 50 years to see why unemployment rates have reached such staggering heights.

In the early 1900s, emphasis placed teaching ethics, responsibility, independence, self-care, citizenship, mastery of the three R’s, encouragement of worthy human relationships, and how to make a living most important.  The shift reveals classrooms where major emphasis is on reading, test taking, and alignment with a norm.  Little to no time is spent on the development of critical thinking, creative thinking, rational thinking, or the development of aligned mental processes needed to adapt and prosper in an ever-changing work environment.  Attainment of these skills set in motion the survival skills needed to make it when working as an employee is not an option.  Unfortunately, extrinsic motivation determines future paths and intrinsic motivation is not encouraged.

Today’s curriculum must reflect children’s current and future needs, placing strong emphasis on molding intrinsic values that will enable youth to thrive as independent adults.

4 responses to “Motivation in education

  1. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is an interesting topic. I sometimes wonder which type is motivating someone’s behavior. Of course one’s motivation depends on their mood and the situation, but usually an individual will be more intrinsic or extrinsic. I believe both types hold positives and negatives.

    The people pleasing extrinsic types seem to meld easier into society. They aren’t the movers nor shakers (intrinsic types) of the world who spur change and innovation regardless of what society thinks of them. Intrinsic people will do what’s right when no one is looking. School systems reward mostly extrinsic behavior. Extrinsic students are more compliant, (easier manipulated) but are less willing to stand up/speak up when faced with criticism. A person’s intrinsic nature can lay dormant, for there can be risk when their true nature is contrary to family or societal expectations.

    I believe it takes a lot of courage to be an intrinsic person. Sometimes this type of thinker is the only voice in the crowd. They can end up living a lonely life in order to stay aligned with their true nature. Deciding who is extrinsic or intrinsic can be puzzling, for what appears to be one is actually the other. A quiet person’s basis of motivation can be extrinsic (or intrinsic) and a loud person’s basis can be extrinsic (or intrinsic) depending on circumstance.

    For example: a quiet person can have extrinsic motivation shown by pleasing their parent who wants a quiet home; or a quiet person can exhibit intrinsic motivation by seeking quiet space even if ridiculed by friends. A loud person can exhibit extrinsic motivation by being the center of attention; or a loud person can exhibit intrinsic motivation by fighting for a cause, even if it means the risk of arrest. Both show the same behavior, but their source of motivation is different.

    It is interesting that the terms introvert and extrovert do not mean the same as intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic or extrinsic is how one is motivated and introvert or extrovert is how one behaves.

    I think either types of motivation can produce frustration. Extrinsic people can feel frustrated as they try to please everyone and intrinsic people can feel frustrated as they try to stay aligned with their inner self.

    In order to successfully live in and contribute to society, I believe each of us should possess both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I think most of us do, but sometimes we lean heavier toward one, when we should lean heavier toward the other.;


  2. Hi Maureen,

    You shared, “I believe it takes a lot of courage to be an intrinsic person. Sometimes this type of thinker is the only voice in the crowd. They can end up living a lonely life in order to stay aligned with their true nature.” I agree – it does take a lot of courage. With time and experience however, I believe the intrinsically motivated person is eventually so happy in their choice of path that they don’t dwell on what others think and may really be quite content to lead the more solitary existence. In fact, many of the movers and shakers throughout history have done so. 🙂 For more information – the solitary learner would fall under the intrapersonal learning style according to Howard Gardner. Thanks so much for your thoughtful sharing!


  3. Learning is actually the key to our self existence. We live because we learn, we learn because we live. We will surely agree that everything that we count as a parameter for success- confidence, attitude, communication, hard work, determination, positive thinking etc., are actually the by-products of learning.I got to know this after attending Learning accelerator workshops by Techbuddy,There Theory of Learning,changed my perceptions regarding learning.
    When any information which gets into our conscious state of mind in the form of knowledge from various resources, can be synced with our sub conscious state of mind, Learning happens. This can be easily done with the development of a self learning habit that focuses on the synergizing mind with our sense organs following an easy 3 step synchronization process.
    1) Read-watch-listen (Observe)
    2) Write-do (Apply)
    3) Speak-talk-teach-discuss (Express)
    Thus interests are nurtured, strengths are developed, learning happens and Success is achieved. The complete process is guided & inspired by an inner feeling known as the sense of self achievement.


  4. Thoughtful information Tiny! According to theorist Abraham Maslow – this sense of self-achievement promotes self-actualization. 🙂 Something we all benefit from experiencing. Thanks so much for sharing!


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