Intrinsic Motivation Leads to better Learning Outcomes and Performance in the Classroom Compared to Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation is a necessary part of the instruction process where the teacher is supposed to influence behavior and performance of the learner. In essence, motivation arises from the interrelation between conscious and unconscious factors such as reward value of the goal, intensity of desire, and expectations of an individual or that of their peers. In a classroom setting, motivation is the driving force that pushes students toward achievement and performance. It can manifest intrinsically or extrinsically. Intrinsic motivation is primarily driven by an enjoyment or interest in the task and exists within a learner rather than in the external environment (Ryan, & Deci, 2000). The subject of intrinsic motivation has intrigued scientists since the 1970s. Scientific studies have often concluded that intrinsic motivation is highly related to high educational achievement and satisfaction by students. Explanations for this connection have been approached via Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy and Deci and Rayan’s theory of cognitive evaluation (self-determination theory).

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Students are said to be intrinsically motivated through three mechanisms. The first is when they ascribe educational results to the amount of effort they dedicate (internal factors) while the second is when they believe in themselves as effective agents in reaching desired objectives. The last is when they show interest in mastering a particular topic rather than simply rote-learning for achievements. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation can be traced to the outside environment rather than from within an individual. Examples of extrinsic motivation include grades, money, and coercion. Competition is in itself is an extrinsic motivation because it encourages a student to win and outperform rather than to satisfy intrinsic rewards. Trophies and motivation from a crowd of spectators are also extrinsic motivations. This paper reviews two studies that compare the outcomes of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and proceeds to compare their outcomes with two fitting theories of motivation. In general, intrinsic motivation leads to better learning outcomes and performance in the classroom compared to extrinsic motivation.

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Review of Literature

            Intrinsic motivation influences learners to pick an activity by choice, gather motivation, and put effort on it until successful completion, regardless of whether rewards are immediate or not. Intrinsic motivation occurs when learners actively participate in an activity without drawing motivation from materials or activities outside the central task. A third-grader who practices to write better because they admire letters as printed in the letter chart are intrinsically motivated. By the same token, a fourth-grader who puts up puzzles of geographic locations because they would like to know the locations of certain cities is intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is attributed to an individual’s internal needs.

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            This section presents a literature review on two studies that focus on the comparison of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in learning. In the first study, Akhtar, Iqbal, & Tatlah (2017) examined the connection between motivation and academic achievement at the secondary school level. The researcher selected a sample of 950 secondary school teachers by use of population proportionate-to-sample technique in secondary schools of a division in India. They then collected data from the participants via a survey technique, specifically through the Motivational Orientation for Teaching Survey (MOT-SIII) questionnaire. The academic achievement was assessed through the combination of two-year results of 10th grade students in the yearly examinations administered by the board of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Lahore (BISE). On analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that intrinsic motivation had a stronger relationship with the student’s academic achievement.

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            Akhtar, Iqbal, & Tatlah (2017) originally intended to examine the relationship between a teacher’s intrinsic motivation and the student’s performance at the high school level as well as compare the connection between intrinsic motivation of male teachers and that of female teachers in eliciting academic achievement among the students. The researchers hypothesized that there would be no significant relationship between the teachers’ intrinsic motivation and the student’s academic performance. They also conjectured that there would be no significant connection between intrinsic motivations of teachers of either genders with the students’ performance. The research was generally descriptive and co-relational in nature. The data collection procedure adopted survey technique in which a sample consisting 586 male and 364 female secondary school teachers was questioned using a five-point Likert scale, ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. To test the reliability of the tool, the researchers conducted a pilot test on a sample of 100 teachers. They discovered a Chronbach’s alpha rating of 0.73. After successful collection of data, the study analyzed the facts with Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS-15). It exploited descriptive analysis techniques where the Mean and Standard deviation were gauged to reveal the degree of intrinsic motivation for the teachers. The subsequent relationship between motivation and performance was measured using Pearson “r”.

            The study findings indicated that the teachers’ intrinsic motivation was significantly related to the students’ academic performance. Additionally, it was reported that intrinsic motivation of teachers from either genders was significantly and positively related to the students’ academic performance. These conclusions are reflected in Benabou & Tirole’s (2003) study which deduced that behavior is activated and sustained through the sense of satisfaction an individual derives out of the activity they are participating. More identical inferences have been drawn from other studies signifying that intrinsic motivation plays a significant role in boosting the interest of teachers and students toward performance and excellence. According to Ormrod 2013), self-determination is particularly vital as it shapes the attitude of individuals towards tasks and responsibilities. Hence teachers can encourage or discourage students towards proficiency by limiting the level of intrinsic motivation they contribute.

            Lemos & Veríssimo (2014) conducted a similar study to investigate relationships between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation among students and their effects on academic performance. The main aim was to analyze intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation as two separate forms of motivation, or rather, as two opposite sides of a band extending from poor to good type of motivation. Intrinsic motivation would be considered as the highest side of the band (good) while extrinsic as the lowest pole (poor). This is on account of intrinsic motivation as an internally driven from of inspiration. The researchers examined two groups of students. A cross-sectional group was used for initial analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation constructs while a longitudinal group was used to explore the evolution of relationships between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and their effects on academic achievement. The first group comprised 200 students from 6th (26.5%), 5th (26%), 4th (22.5%), and 3rd (25%) grades with gender distribution of 47.5% boys and 52.5% girls. The second group was composed of 200 third-grade students from 18 elementary schools in Portugal, distributed by gender in the ratio of 58% boys and 42% girls. A decomposed version was used to assess the scale of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation in the classroom. Rather than compelling students to select one option from both forms of motivation, the scale allowed them to rate the rate at which both forms accounted for their learning behaviors. Academic achievement was assessed through teachers’ rating of academic performance in mathematics and Portuguese language.

            The study analyzed the results through the principle components method and then proceeded by comparing them with academic performance via measures of correlation. The findings revealed that intrinsic and extrinsic forms of motivation are independent dimensions rather than opposite poles of one dimension. Intrinsic motivation elicited a unique relationship with academic performance with findings supporting the case for a positive and consistent relationship. On the other hand, a conceivable developmental trend emerged, indicating that extrinsic motivation does not negatively impact intrinsic interests and academic performance of students but may do so in the long run.

Application of Theoretical Concepts

The art of influencing the hearts and minds of learners has remained a central topic of interest among educational psychologists. By using the term “motivation,” they have described variations in directions and energy that directly sway learner’s behavior. Even so, motivation has not always had the same meanings to different psychologists. Notably, motivation is an intangible construct, and for this reason, psychologists describe it through the use of metaphors. For instance, Piaget uses the “balance” metaphor to elucidate the concept of cognitive development. Similarly, psychologists adopt the concept of the mind to mean the human biological information processing system. The use of these metaphors has enabled educational psychologists to formulate various theories relating to motivation. Traditional theories of motivation assumed that motivational factors were beyond the control of an individual. They specifically suggested that various internal and external factors are responsible for molding unmotivated behavior.

In particular, cognitive motivational theories utilize a range of mechanical and biological concepts to explain the direction and energy of behavior. Such factors include tension, drives, energy, and forces. As such, these theories present humans as passive active creatures that are subject to internal and external forces beyond their control. Nevertheless, modern theories of motivations paint a different picture by depicting humans as rational thinkers. Two principal examples are attribution theory and self-efficacy theory. Both theories suggest that motivated behavior is attributed to conscious cognitive processes that enmesh the ability to judge, evaluate, and make decisions or to anticipate rewards and goals. Therefore, they consider individuals as rational thinkers, allowing educational experts to compare them with other cognitive theories.

            The self-efficacy theory draws from people’s perception of their capabilities of reaching certain goals or of organizing and executing courses of actions needed in attainment of designated forms of performance (Ormrod, 2013). Bandura, the original founder of the theory, believed that learners instigate and put more effort in tasks that they believe they are proficient at. This is the quality of self-efficacy that the theory draws from; it is not a disposition or a trait. There are no self-efficacious people for the reason that self-efficacy is not a psychological need or biological drive. Rather, self-efficacy more exactly relates to the appraisal of one’s own competence to succeed at a particular activity Ormrod, 2013). The situation upon which a person tries to judge their abilities plays an important role in the final outcome. A person may have high self-efficacy in poetry but low self-efficacy for singing. By the same token, a learner may have a high self-efficacy for mathematics but a low self-efficacy for biology. The appraisal, once made, can explain the effort a student puts in a certain activity.

            Self-determination theory holds that people are motivated by their own needs (Ormrod, 2013). Therefore, the theory introduces the aspect of human needs, which has been largely ignored by other cognitive theorists. Yet, the theory does not disregard the role of thought processes. The self-determination perspective can be applied in the sense that a learner’s intrinsic motivation for a certain activity relies on her beliefs. Thus, learners are motivated for success when they have confidence that excellence is a product of factors under their control. In comparison, self-efficacy theory maintains that the intrinsic motivation of learners for particular activities depends on their belief of whether they are good at it. Self-determination theory goes beyond this complexity to portray intrinsic motivation as an attitude of self-determination. Hence, this belief not simply a belief in one’s ability to perform in a certain task but rather boldness. In addition, self-determination enmeshes more than just beliefs of success or failure.

            In conclusion, the positive correlation between intrinsic motivation and high academic performance in a classroom setting can be explained via self-efficacy and self-determination theories. The self-efficacy theory draws from people’s perception of their capabilities of reaching certain goals or of organizing and executing courses of actions needed in attainment of designated forms of performance (Ormrod, 2013). On the other hand, the self-determination theory focuses on the role of innate human needs such as relationships, competence, and autonomy (Ormrod, 2013). Competence refers to a learner’s knowledge of what means to use in order to achieve goals. Relationship needs are inborn wants for satisfying connections with parents, teachers and peers.

Conclusion

In sum, this paper has reviewed two studies that compare the outcomes of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It has found that intrinsic motivation leads to better learning outcomes and performance in the classroom compared to extrinsic motivation. Explanations for this connection can be explained via Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy and Deci and Rayan’s theory of cognitive evaluation (self-determination theory). Self-efficacy theory draws from people’s perception of their capabilities of reaching certain goals or of organizing and executing courses of actions needed in attainment of designated forms of performance. Self-determination theory holds that people are motivated by their own needs. Students are said to be intrinsically motivated when they ascribe educational results to the amount of effort they dedicate (internal factors), when they believe in themselves as effective agents in reaching desired objectives, and when they show interest in mastering a particular topic rather than simply rote-learning for achievements. Consequently, educators should emphasize intrinsic motivation strategies in the classroom setting in order to enhance performance. School administrators should consider in-service training programs for teachers concerning the subject of motivation. Moreover, they should reduce the degree of extrinsic motivation by reducing punishment, coercion, the importance of grading, and instead, resort to intrinsic motivation approaches.

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