How to Spark Intrinsic Motivation in Your Students

It’s been quite a while since learning experts and business coaches have taken gamification on board – to improve student/employee engagement, experiment with new motivation techniques and unlock hidden potentials in a revamped environment. Despite all benefits enclosed, a major concern here is the lack of intrinsic motivation that needs no badges, certificates of achievement or other perks to retain students’ interest. Is there any viable manner to keep the audience focused without the carrot – or the stick? 

Here are a few tips for teachers willing to boost intrinsic motivation:

Empower your students with a feeling of conscious choice. You are unlikely to engage elementary students in this type of rhetoric, however, college students do have a wide range of options available. Other than paternal pressure or other imperatives that are irrelevant to this discussion, learners are free to choose. Once they’ve made up their mind, it’s only fair that they reveal due diligence and commitment to the preferred sciences.

Set a greater goal. Motivation may be easily encouraged by reaching out to extraordinary. Biting off more than one could chew – in an academic, business or personal development environment – could sometimes be an unrivaled source of inspiration.

Reinvent the system of rewards. Direct incentivization is a smart strategy for making your learners fulfill straightforward clear tasks. Go through these steps with maximum efficiency – and get your badge. An approach that doesn’t really work for complex non-linear activities that require boosted creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

Forget negative motivation. The daunting prospect of failure might be the right stick for some unengaged individuals but it never works without a carrot. At any rate, fear leaves no room for genuine interest, understanding or research opportunity. Don’t intimidate, find the right leverage.

Beef up your learners’ self-esteem. Some people tend to fail before they even get down to the task. A proposed learning objective may seem formidable unless you get your feet wet. Make sure the students feel confident about what they do and have the right resource to complete their tasks.

Provide honest and instructive feedback. Despite a popular misconception, motivation is not all about praise. It also has to do with relevant ‘encouraging’ criticism. This may concern attitude, learning approach or particularities of the subject matter. Try to seamlessly get your students on the right track by focusing on their strengths rather than weaknesses.

Encourage collaboration. A well-tried scenario where intrinsic motivation flourishes like nowhere else is a common project. Students will enjoy sharing their knowledge or skills, helping others with their struggles or benchmark performance against their peers’ showings. Competition may also make part of the collaboration. Synergy of teamwork, individual talents and diverging impulses is what accounts for an engaging learning experience.

Employ cutting-edge technology. From that perspective, I’ve seen lots of examples when the introduction of tablets into the learning process greatly benefited students and teachers alike. That’s how you lure learners into a familiar digital infrastructure, increase engagement, provide quick visualization of concepts and ensure cost-efficiency in the long run (compared to heavy and obsolete paper textbooks).

Ask for feedback and glean personal interests. Ever wondered what your students really want to learn? Run a non-obtrusive survey and get valuable insights into your course. Asking questions is a process that goes both ways, and the result may be an authentic game-changer. Hold a manageable discussion, draw your conclusions and tweak your material for better perception.

Innovate and use change as a behavioral stimulus. Try to spruce up the teaching routine and brick-and-mortar methods and make regular updates to the learning environment and techniques. Move your lecture outside of the classroom, make inroads into e-Learning, take your folks for a stroll or to a museum, follow the trends of blended learning – and see how the students respond to the change.

Break the material down to puzzle solving. Let your audience play Dr. House or Sherlock and present arguably tedious or highly complicated matters as problems to solve. Ask elaborative questions, give specific clues and evidence for further analysis, make it fun. Gamification is not only about badges, it’s also about the pure joy of unraveling mysteries.

Show how knowledge applies in real life. Every action triggers results relevant for various industries, sciences, and walks of life. Never fail to showcase the application areas and tangible ‘products’ associated with your subject matter. Make your students believe there is a kaleidoscope of contexts where new skills and collateral capabilities play a crucial role, so it’s not just art for art’s sake. Simulations and case studies speak volumes where strict theory may fail to reach the goal.

Teach your students how to learn. Sometimes, it’s not only the course that matters but the entire process of knowledge acquisition and retention as well as academic formalization. Once the learners are ready to ingest and rework data to their benefit, they enable the intrinsic learning mechanisms that otherwise remain underemployed. Meet them halfway and facilitate navigation in the world of data by pointing out pertinent online and offline resources, useful technology, web-based tools, etc.

I hope these simple recommendations will help you in a momentous transition from extrinsic to intrinsic rewarding. Sparking a passion for learning and advancing rather than ‘get credits’ may seem a challenge, yet a journey of a thousand miles always begins with a single step.

Dasha is an e-Learning content developer who has transformed the teaching experience from a traditional to a virtual classroom. Before becoming an e-Learning specialist, Dasha worked as an English language teacher for children and adults. She now creates online courses for different types of audiences, including corporate and university students.