A lot of people are paid a lot of good money to motivate others. While I always found some of the most popular motivational speakers to be a little corny for my own needs, my graduate studies taught me a lot about the psychology of motivation and have helped me understand what a critical role it plays in education. Surprisingly, everyone can be motivated in two different ways– but these ways are not equally effective.
It might be difficult to imagine a better incentive than grades and graduating on time when it comes to motivating high school students, but most parents are pretty quick to realize that these goals don’t motivate as well as they would hope. This is because the use of external rewards only give the mind a fleeting sense of accomplishment, and intangible, distant goals don’t provide enough payoff for the teenage brain to hold steam after a while. External motivation in this vein is best used to initially get someone started in pursuing an experience– not as the sole source of motivation. Naturally, the flipside of extrinsic (external) motivation is intrinsic (internal) motivation. Intrinsic motivation is what drives people to continually return to challenging situations and build skills due to the goals relating to salient aspects of the pursuer’s identity.
But how do you induce a sense of intrinsic motivation in a student when their goals are extrinsic in nature?
Well, we have a few methods that we use at Victory Step that addresses this conundrum. We understand that obtainable extrinsic goals are the best way to make a student feel at-home as we get them started in our classroom programs. Having a few practice problems that they can quickly conquer in class gives their brains the stimulation and reinforcement that they need to start feeling engaged right off the bat. But the beauty of our small classroom sizes is that they allow for individualized attention throughout the course and plenty of opportunities for report to build among students and their instructor. Each class can have an instructor that tailors to not just the academic needs of the class, but the personality of the students and what type of support they need. In order to keep students on course inside the classroom and out, we refine their goals to include intrinsic pursuits such as building confidence, discovering a love for learning, and articulating a better sense of self-expression.
Since individualized attention is so key to making the correct shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation, it makes sense that one-on-one tutoring is such an effective form of mentorship. When students want to work through obstacles like test anxiety, extrinsic motivation alone won’t cut it. Building confidence and coping skills can’t be done that way. We emphasize mentorship over cut-and-dry instruction specifically to help kids learn to motivate themselves and figure out what they need. Making a musically inclined kid learn to quickly write an essay will be much more effective when the motivation is writing more meaningful reviews for their new music blog as opposed to an abstract improvement on a numbered scale.
Whether it’s a one-on-one setting or a small classroom that can help motivate students in the ways that meet their specific academic needs, it’s important to consider what a student reacts best to when it comes to overcoming educational obstacles. Figuring out what motivates a student early is key to having an effective learning experience at any level of education.