Motivation: Inside-Out or Outside-In?

Motivation is being moved to do something.  McGrew (2007) has defined academic motivation as “a student’s desire (as reflected in approach, persistence, and level of interest) regarding academic subjects when the student’s competence is judged against a standard of performance or excellence.”  Many motivational theories have been developed in order to provide a language, conceptual representation, or explanatory system that offers a framework for understanding a complex process which involves emotions, perceptions, and intellect.  The most basic distinction between the theories are intrinsic motivation, doing something because it is enjoyable or inherently interesting, and extrinsic motivation, doing something because it leads to a separable outcome.

Our published philosophy of learning contains the following statement, “By presenting academics in an age-appropriate time frame and involving the learner in the learning process, young people will develop into eager lifetime learners.”  What this is communicating is that we are committed to teaching children in way that is active and highly engaging, that we will introduce knowledge and skills in a way that takes advantage of our students’ natural development, and that our students will develop an intrinsic motivation to learn that persists throughout their lives.  I am in the midst of a three journey to research and understand the concept of academic motivation and what adults can do to foster motivation in students.  I can share one aspect of this research with you in one sentence.  Students will develop intrinsic motivation for learning when they see it modeled by an adult they admire and respect.  I want to encourage everyone on our staff to be a lifetime learner.  That could involve taking a class or getting a degree.  Studying the Bible can be a powerful source of lifetime learning.  For many people it involves reading a few books every year, listening to audiobooks, watching documentaries or learning a skill or hobby.  Lifetime learning should be fun and add meaning and purpose to your days.  It also encourages those around you, including our students, to see the value of learning and provides an example for them to follow.