Motivation is the drive to do something

What is motivation? There are many definitions of ‘motivation’. Suslu (2006) has come up with a nice collection of definitions by well known authors:

  • ‘some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve something’ (Harmer, 2001)
  • ‘why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity and how hard they are going to pursue it’ (Dornyei, 2001)
  • ‘Interest, curiosity, or a desire to achieve’ (Williams and Burden, 1997)
  • ‘needs or expectations, behaviour, goals, and some form of feedback’
    (Steers and Porter, 1991)

We can think of motivation as an internal state, a feeling, a drive, some energy. It makes us set goals, consciously or subconsciously, and it makes us act to achieve our goals.But are there different types of motivation?Yes. We can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated:

  • Intrinsic motivation is spontaneous, and arises out of interest and curiosity. It is something we want to do when we don’t have to. It is doing something for the pleasure of it.
  • Extrinsic motivation is not directly related to the activity itself. We are not interested in the activity. We are interested in what we will gain after we complete the activity.

In the cartoon of the tortoise and the hare above, we could say that the hare would be the extrinsically motivated learner – he wants to get the carrot waiting for him at the end of the race. The tortoise would be the intrinsically motivated learner – he is happy to be running the race, his muscles getting exercised, the sunshine… In our classes, we will have both of these types of learners with varying amounts of motivation levels.

Find new ways to motivate your learners

You’re going to watch a presentation about motivation. Before you watch, use your journal to answer these questions:

  • What is motivation?
  • What effect does motivation have on learning?
  • How can we motivate learners?
  • What kinds of classroom conditions and activities motivate learners?
  • What is an intervention?
  • Why is it important?
  • What are the stages of the action research process?
  • What happens at each stage?

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