Productivity in our Schools: Motivation Analysis


Motivation is what drives us.  At Oxford Preparatory School 84% of students indicated that motivation largely affects their ability to be academically productive.  We see that motivation can be the entity separating many students from academic success.  But why is that? And how can we help students find the motivation needed to perform well academically? 

Well, to do something about it we first have to understand it. There are two types of motivation that I will be referring to here: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.  Extrinsic motivation is the motivation that is reward driven.  When one is extrinsically motivated they are performing an action in order to meet a goal that is incentivized for the individual.  Intrinsic motivation is self driven.  When one is intrinsically motivated they are performing an action because they see inherent value in it. 

The fact that extrinsic motivation exists in our current social systems is largely beneficial from the perspective of an educator.  This is because extrinsic motivation gives educators some amount of control over their students through incentivization.  Something that has continuously incentivized me as a student has been positive reinforcement.  This is an example of effective operant conditioning being used in the school environment (Morris 2022).  When a teacher gave me positive reinforcement it made me more likely to continue the behavior being reinforced .  Though some behaviors such as turning in work on time and listening to instruction are expected; sometimes, students are still in need of incentivization in order to perform them, especially at younger ages.  Therefore, utilizing incentivization and conditioning in these cases can be very helpful.  Especially because these behaviors are intertwined with productivity.  When a student is submitting work late or not paying attention to instruction, academic productivity and achievement can be very difficult to obtain.  Being that we seek to create a learning environment where academic achievement is the standard, these behaviors must be incentivized and performed by our students.  Though there is also a negative that has to be acknowledged when considering employing extrinsic incentives.  Studies have found that incentivizing a behavior that is already performed by a student voluntarily can later affect their ability to perform it on their own without the incentive (Jacobsen 1998).  If a student is already reading on their own, but then they are given a sticker for completing an assigned reading they may be reluctant to read again voluntarily.  This is because they know they will not be receiving the reward when doing it outside of the classroom, so extrinsic incentives can negatively affect intrinsic motivation. 

 A large portion of motivation lies in the hands of each individual student.  This is because of the definite power of intrinsic motivation.  In literature review study (a study compiling the results of many articles to support one thesis) it was found that extrinsic motivators were much weaker than intrinsic motivators when considering long term performance and satisfaction (Campbell et al. 2012)  We know that extrinsic incentives can be helpful, but when you set the two against each other, the conclusion found is sensible.  Consider the extrinsic motivators often present in a high schooler’s life.  These may be things such as impressing their peers and parents, seeing that good grade on the report card, achievement awards, or maybe some tangible reward, such as cash, that they get as a result of performing well academically.  These extrinsic rewards work well in the short term, or when one is trying to condition a behavior or make someone work towards a goal.  But, extrinsic incentives can turn learning into the means to an end rather than learning being the goal itself.  

So, how do we create students that are intrinsically motivated? It is widely shown that implementing effective experiential learning can aid in building intrinsic motivation. These practices allow the information to become relevant to students as they are given more autonomy over their learning. They do this through applying their learning to real-world situations, teaching students to also be problem solvers.  When the curriculum is able to become pertinent to a student’s life, the student then finds value in learning that information. This process builds intrinsic motivation within students, which is an incredibly important quality for success in the modern world (Kong 2021).  

Additionally, inviting guest speakers and providing seminars for students is another way to richen education and build more motivation within students.   Students may be able to make goals and build values which serve as intrinsic motivators through listening to speakers who have achieved what they wish to in the future.  This can remind students of the value of education in respect to their career objectives.  When students attend these seminars education becomes inherently valuable to students in school even when experiential learning is not present in each individual course.  

All information shared in this post is from the four studies cited below and my own survey.  I synthesized knowledge gained from a general psychology course, my personal experiences, and the studies to come to the conclusions shared.  

Campbell N, McAllister L, Eley DS.  The influence of motivation in recruitment and retention of rural and remote allied health professionals: a literature review. Rural and Remote Health 2012; 12: 1900.

Jacobson, Jennifer D., "Effects of extrinsic reward conditions on students' intrinsic motivation : implications for teachers" (1998). Graduate Research Papers. 895. 

Kong Y. (2021). The Role of Experiential Learning on Students' Motivation and Classroom Engagement. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 771272.

Morris, L. S., Grehl, M. M., Rutter, S. B., Mehta, M., & Westwater, M. L. (2022). On what motivates us: a detailed review of intrinsic v. extrinsic motivation. Psychological medicine, 52(10), 1801–1816.


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