Tag Archives: extrinsic

Rebuttal to Extrinsic Motivation

What now! A school that states its purpose and objectives with the inclusion of this philosophy:

to value learning more than propriety, to trust the unadorned pleasures of learning, unassisted by point scores, prizes, rankings, and punishments.

I started teaching in 1982 at St Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. Begun in 1965 by Headmaster Stanley Bosworth, St Ann’s was and is an upstart in the world of independent schools. One of St Ann’s hallmarks is that students do not receive grades, only anecdotal comments.

Alfie Kohn, well-known in certain circles as another educational upstart, believes that extrinsic rewards are useless in education, in raising children, or in creating a positive work environment. He expounds on this in his book Punished by Rewards: The trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and other Bribes.

The Study Guides and Strategies site, which I have referenced in previous posts, begins the Motivating yourself ~ extrinsic values page with the line: Print this and write three reasons someone else wants you to learn this. The text then goes on to suggest that learning to satisfy someone else’s criteria is not as effective as learning to satisfy your own, and to assist with the process they provide An exercise in Motivating Yourself.

As to which type of motivation is best, I leave it to you to determine for yourself, but am willing to bet that both types have their place. The Cornell University College of Engineering provides some suggestions for Maintaining Morale & Motivation, and concludes:

In sum, both intrinsic and extrinsic methods of motivation are important and necessary.

And the University of Connecticut page, Tips for Rewarding Students for Good Performance (Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation), begins by stating:

Recent theories suggest that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are not two opposing constructs, but rather two ends of a motivation continuum.


Extrinsic Motivation

We have two sons and in those early years of parenting, when we tried to get them to do what we thought was best, we used to define a difference between a bribe and an incentive. We’d tell them (and ourselves) that a bribe was something dangled to get a person to do something not necessarily good for them, and an incentive was something dangled to get a person to do something positively beneficial for them.

In either case, the “dangler” was usually a tangible reward used as a motivator. This is about as extrinsic as it gets – where somebody else both sets the goal and provides the reward for achieving that goal. Both the goal setter and rewarder, and the actual reward are all external to the person whose behavior is trying to be encouraged.

In the very long article, Trait intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, academic performance, and creativity in Hong Kong college students, published in the September/October 2002 issue of the Journal of College Student Development, the authors state that:

Factors that can turn off intrinsic motivation and promote extrinsic motivation include surveillance, competition, and rewards that do not provide performance feedback, such as paying a person for completing a task irrespectively of the quality of his or her work. [bold highlighting by me]

Is extrinsic motivation effective? We probably all know people, including ourselves, who at some point or other have used extrinsic motivation in order to get something accomplished. Stay tuned for the next post: Rebuttal to Extrinsic Motivation

Rebuttal to Intrinsic Motivation

On the other end of the spectrum is Steven Reiss, an Ohio State University professor of psychology. Reiss posits that perhaps intrinsic motivation does not exist. He goes on to state there are so many reasons people tend to do one thing or another that we cannot buttonhole their rationales into intrinsic or extrinsic motivators, but if we persist in doing so it involves making value judgments.

“There is no reason that money can’t be an effective motivator, or that grades can’t motivate students in school,” he said. “It’s all a matter of individual differences. Different people are motivated in different ways.”

You can read more about his theory on this Ohio State Research page. Stay tuned for the next post: Extrinsic Motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation

[3/14/2018 Thank you to Russ Starke and his article Motivation-by-Numbers on the Think Company blog for linking back here and, in the process, pointing out that the links for the University of Purdue’s materials were no longer valid. I have since removed the links.]

The University of Purdue at Calumet, Indiana, hosts the book Educational Psychology: A Practical Approach by Edward Vockell, Ph.D. The book consists of 18 chapters though unfortunately the last 13 have not been placed online. However, Vockell has posted a workbook to accompany his text, and the workbook goes through the first 14 chapters, so perhaps this project is a work in progress.

What piques my interest is Chapter 5: Motivating Students to Learn and particularly the section on Intrinsic Motivation, which contains an excellent chart summarizing the factors that promote intrinsic motivation. According to Vockell, these are:

• challenge
• curiosity
• control
• fantasy
• competition
• cooperation
• recognition

I can so easily apply these factors to what motivates me to swim.
~ The challenge consists of goals that are set by me and can be attained with “activity at a continuously optimal (intermediate) level of difficulty.” My challenge is always to swim further and faster.

– My curiosity focuses on how I can improve my freestyle, where “there is an optimal level of discrepancy between present knowledge or skills and what these could be” if I did something to improve my knowledge or skills. I tackled that initially by attending a swim clinic, watching swim videos, and reading articles, and each season include a variety of swim drills designed to improve both my strength and strokes.

– Most “people have a basic tendency to want to control what happens to them” and that applies to both professional and personal endeavors. There is no doubt that I control when, where and how long I swim (barring the interference of weather), sometimes swimming twice a day.

– If you believe you can do something, and form a mental (fantasy) image of doing that thing, you help propel yourself to be able to actually do it. Runners who race often maintain a mental image of crossing the finish line. I maintain an image of finishing the half-mile swim at the four Danskin Triathlons in which I participated.

– In the Danskin and in my daily swims, it’s all about finishing what you started out to do; it’s not about competing with someone else. However, there was definitely satisfaction in comparing each of my Danskin times, and I compare my daily swim with the previous day’s swim. Also in the Danskin I liked to compare my performance with my peer age group.

– I often swim with my husband, and we cooperate to swim synchronized freestyle laps. We aren’t fancy, but our arms are in synch. Swimming with him helps me to get faster and to use fewer strokes in the process. I think he benefits by being in the pool in the first place.

– And the recognition comes from neighbors at the pool who marvel at our distance and synchronized swims.

Next post: Rebuttal to Intrinsic Motivation