Thursday, 5 November 2015

 Motivating Adult Learners.....Intrinsic motivation versus  
 extrinsic motivation:

         Motivation is an important concept in psychology.   It provides insight into why we may behave the way we do.  Motivation is an internal process that reflects the desire to achieve certain goals.  Motivation can be divided into two basic types:  intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation
Intrinsic Motivation: What is intrinsic motivation?   Intrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because it is enjoyable.  If we are intrinsically motivated, we would not be worried about external rewards such as praise or awards.  If we are intrinsically motivated, the enjoyment we experience would be sufficient for us to want to perform the activity in the future.
Examples of Intrinsic Motivation:Writing short stories because you really enjoy writing them, reading a nonfiction book because you are curious about the topic, and playing chess because you enjoy effortful thinking are some intrinsic motivation examples.

Extrinsic Motivation:
What is extrinsic motivation?   Extrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because of external rewards such as awards, money, and praise.  People who are extrinsically motivated may not enjoy certain activities.  They may only wish to engage in certain activities because they wish to receive some external reward.

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation:
There are many possible extrinsic motivation examples.  The writer who only writes poems to be submitted to poetry contests would be one example of extrinsic motivation.   The person who dislikes sales but accepts a sales position because he or she desires to earn an above average salary is another example of extrinsic motivation.   A third example of extrinsic motivation is selecting a major in college based on salary and prestige, rather than personal interest in the major.

The Possible Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation:
Teachers may be very interested in fostering intrinsic movitation.  If students are only interested in receiving grades or praise, and do not enjoy learning, then teaching may be very difficult.  Students may not wish to think or apply their knowledge.  They may only be concerned with what will be on the tests.  In contrast, students who are intrinsically motivated may enjoy challenging work, and may think in greater depth about ideas.  Teachers may be able to foster intrinsic motivation by having students work on projects that allow them to see how the information is relevant to their lives.
      Supervisors may also be interested in ways to increase intrinsic motivation.  The ideal employee may be one who is self-motivated and does not require constant supervision.   Intrinsically motivated employees may b
e less likely to be late.  They also may be more likely to excel at their jobs.  It is possible that supervisors may increase intrinsic motivation by allowing employees to have greater autonomy, making the workplace fun, or encouraging creativity." (Retrieved from

My Input now:
Ohhhhhh this is a great topic! one that is near and dear to my do we motivate students who lack intrinsic motivation? We have students who come to us that are there because they always wanted to be a nurse and couldn't dream of doing anything else. We also have other students who are there because perhaps their parents told them they need to go to school and take something, "pick any career, just pick one!" So, they choose nursing for whatever reason, or maybe because their Mom or Grandma was a nurse and they can't think of anything else at this time, or the course started soon after they started looking, perhaps they like the look of scrubs, the stethoscope looks cool, they always liked the show 'Grey's anatomy' or because it pays not too badly.......whatever the reason, they come to us, but for some it isn't with a 'burning desire to become a nurse', it isn't 'because it's what they always dreamed of being or wanting to do', somebody told them to 'give it a try' or such. This type of student often lacks intrinsic motivation because they lack the innate desire to pursue it, which makes it difficult to engage this student in learning. So how do we engage these students?
I have found that creative thinking activities help them to seek ways that they can relate to nursing, if anything is going to help engage and motivate them, it will be this---the student needs to find something relatable in nursing, if they are going to engage in the learning and commit.  (There are a million and one creative thinking activities on the net to choose from).

Just because this type of student has invested money or their parents told them to do it, intrinsic motivation is a must in order to be successful in our program. The long hours, the stress, the amount of content covered,  the responsibility of people's lives, is not worth it to the person who lacks intrinsic motivation to be a nurse. 

For some students (i.e those who lack confidence or those not really wanting to be there), we have to be their external motivation until their intrinsic motivation kicks in, if at all. We do this either through activities that get them to visualize themselves in the role or get them to see something in nursing that is appealing to them. Sometimes a student lacks motivation because nursing isn't for them. If the student appears disinterested, sometimes a heart to heart with the student is in order, we ask them what interests them and what do they picture themselves doing. Sometimes just posing the questions gets the student to consider what they really want to do and be honest with themselves, are they really all that interested in nursing? who's dream is it for them to be a nurse? It isn't that we want to 'counsel people out', but it is a demanding career that would be a serious challenge for someone who does not really want/care to be a nurse. I feel that it is a responsibility of the Instructor to recognize if a student is struggling within the program as well as with the decision to be or not to be in the program.

More info: 
Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
“Intrinsic motivation is associated with curiosity, exploration, spontaneity, and interest…extrinsic motivation is associated with undertaken to attain an end state that is separate from the actual behavior…determined by some external contengency such as good marks or the avoidance of negative consequences.” (Muller, 2004) Adults are motivated by some external factorcs, such as promotions, salaries, and pressure from authority figures. However, internal motivators that help adults solve problems in their life, such as increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, quality of life, and the opportunity to self-actualize, tend to be more powerful motivators (Knowles, 2005).
Simons (2004) describes two different motivational patterns and learning styles. He states, “Students can have both orientations, but only one can be prevalent when achieving.”
  • Task/Mastery or Learning Goals
    When develop a skill or acquiring knowledge following task or learning goals, a student will take on a challenging task, even if there is a risk of making a mistake. They learn from these mistakes, enriching their learning process.
  • Ego or Performance Goals
    The main concern when working on tasks focusing with ego or performance goals is how a student’s performance will be viewed relative to others. They are concerned about looking incompetent or judged in a negative way by others, often avoiding the task all together.
Intrinsic Motivation
According to Ryan and Deci (2000), learners who are intrinsically motivated, therefore being interested leaners:

  • are more content in their learning processes.
  • acquire knowledge in a more differentiated and more coherent form.
  • show a long-term retention of what was learned.
  • apply their knowledge more often than others.
  • show higher academic achievement.
  • perceive themselves as more competent.
Simons enhances Deci and Ryan’s studies by listing the following characteristics of internally regulated learners:
  • emphasize personal development or growth.
  • are more task oriented.
  • are more excited about the course.
  • use more deep level learning strategies.
  • persist more and perform better.
  • have more interests.
  • are more confident.
  • persist longer.
  • receive better exam scores.
“Intemalisation involves an individual's transformation of regulatory processes that are extemal to the self into intemal regulatory processes. These now internalised values and regulations are integrated into and become part of one's self” (Muller). However, a person must have their basic psychological needs met before self-determined motivation and the development and maintenance of personal interest can take place (Muller).
Muller provides reasons a student will perform an activiey for its own sake, stating that this is intrinsic. Motivation in this case:
  • derives from activity level, interest, and curiosity.
  • taps into the natural human tendency to pursue interests and exercise capabilities.
  • doesn’t require incentives because the process itself is inherently motivating.
  • students often experience “flow”, defined as a feeling of enjoyment that occurs when they have developed a sense of mastery and are concentrating intensely on the task at hand.

Extrinsic Motivation
Simons lists the following characteristics of exernally regulated learners:

  • are more approach and avoidance ego-oriented.
  • study less regularly.
  • show less excitement.
  • persist less.
  • use more surface level strategies.
  • have lower exam results.
  • are less interested in the course.
If a student is presented with a task and provided external incentives and reinforcements, they generally may not develop an intrinsic motivation to learn. In addition, if a student is provided external incentives to perform a task and they would naturally find motivating, their desire to perform the tasks can actually decrease (Muller). Generally, when students focus their attention on external incentives, the rewards become the end themselves, rather than serving their proper function, to provide feedback on progress the students are making. (Retrieved from

Knowles, Malcom S., Holton, Elwood F. III, & Swanson, Richard A. (2005). The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development (6 th ed.). Burlington, MA: Elsevlier
Müller, Florian H., Louw, Johann. (2004). Learning environment, motivation and interest: Perspectives on self-determination theory. South African Journal of Psychology, 34, 2, 169-190.
Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67.
Simmons, Joke, Dewitte, Siegfried, & Lens, Willy (2004). The Role of Different Types of Instrumentality in Motivation, Study Strategies, and Performance: Know Why You Learn, So You’ll Know What You Learn! British Journal of Educational Psychology. 74, 343-360.

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