Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Rewards

Do you ever think about what truly drives us to achieve our goals and dreams? Join us as we explore the age-old debate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and uncover the secrets behind what really fuels our actions. Get ready to gain valuable insights that might just change the way you approach your students and possibly your own motivations. 

Topics Discussed

  • The difference between these two types of rewards
  • How to foster motivation at the middle school level
  • Finding balance



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Ellie 0:00

Hello, and thank you for joining us today at the teaching Toolbox Podcast. I'm Ellie, and I'm here with Brittany.

Brittany 0:07


Ellie 0:09

And today we're jumping into the fascinating world of motivation. Do you ever think about what truly drives us to achieve our goals and dreams? Join us today as we explore the age old debate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and uncover the secrets behind what really fuels our actions. Get ready to gain valuable insights that might just change the way you approach your students and possibly your own motivation.

Brittany 0:37

When it comes to what motivates us and our students, in the areas of behavior and performance, we generally think about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation or rewards. We can typically tell which of our students are more motivated intrinsically versus extrinsicly are they doing their homework studying participating in class? Because they want that a they want the grade? Or do they generally want to learn? Do they read or look up information just because? do they do extra math problems or try to find math rules, just because? before we get further into the episode, let's take a minute and define each of these terms.

Ellie 1:22

So thinking about extrinsic rewards, or motivation, this is a type of motivation or reward that comes from without you, not inside you. These are rewards that you can see and touch and that you are given for accomplishing something, possibly praise or money or fame. That would be fun. Again, it can involve money. It could also be like stickers, or bookmarks or books or little trinkets, things like that, that you might have in your classroom. It's often given through a boss or a manager if you're out in the real world, or from your teacher if you're in the classroom. And it can be items that are done just to win something when a reward or avoid a punishment. intrinsic rewards on the other hand are things that come from within. So these are rewards that are internal and personal, and related to you yourself. Things like pride in your work, feelings of respect, expanding your competence, doing work that you just enjoy that type of thing. Building intrinsic motivation can happen with giving students autonomy, choice, the ability to improve that type of thing. And these, again, are tasks that are done for enjoyment, completion or satisfaction. So while both types of rewards can be effective in motivating students, intrinsic rewards are often seen as more sustainable, and they foster a genuine love for learning. So how can we work on using both of these types of motivation or rewards in our middle school classes?

Brittany 2:54

Fostering intrinsic rewards or motivation in middle school might be more challenging. So let's start with intrinsic, one of the first things teachers can do is focus on creating a positive and engaging learning environment. And we covered that in episode one. You can encourage student autonomy by allowing choices in assignments or projects so choice boards are very good to use.

Ellie 3:23

You can provide meaningful feedback that focuses on effort and improvement rather than just grades. And you can work on cultivating curiosity sparks student's interest by connecting lessons to real life examples or personal experiences, and encourage questioning and exploration so they're wanting to learn just because they are curious.

Brittany 3:45

you can help students see the real world relevance of what they are learning how it relates to what's really going on around them, you can incorporate student interests design lessons that resonate with their interests. A personal connection like this can increase engagement and intrinsic motivation.

Ellie 4:06

Building strong teacher student relationships based on trust and respect can further enhance intrinsic rewards. And encouraging self reflection is helpful. You can help students reflect on their learning process, their strengths, their areas for improvement, and even encourage them to set some personal goals and track their progress over some time.

Brittany 4:28

You can also encourage a growth mindset and then set the example share different things you do in your own life. Just because it gives you a sense of accomplishment or pride in yourself. If you ran a 5k, or knitted a baby blanket, built a garden fence, started learning to play an instrument, maybe you started learning a language share it with your class, just because it interested you and made you proud of your accomplishment, share it with your students. Some students may not I'd have many examples of that in their lives, so you sharing it with them may motivate them.

Ellie 5:06

Great idea. So let's move to extrinsic rewards or motivation, which most of us probably use fairly regularly. But we have a few ideas, we might have a few ideas that you haven't tried yet, teachers can implement strategies such as setting clear expectations and goals students can strive toward, and by involving them in the process of goal setting and letting them choose their extrinsic reward. It can make the extrinsic motivation more meaningful and effective in the classroom. And maybe along the way, it can help build some of the intrinsic as well. You can use different positive reinforcement like verbal praise, stickers, small treats to reinforce desired behaviors and outcomes. And maybe little rewards like tokens, certificates, or even class privileges can motivate students to work towards specific targets.

Brittany 5:58

Using a reward system that is consistent and fair, can help maintain student motivation as well. We talked about using classroom economies back in episode 12. If you'd like more details about that, go back and listen to that episode. And then publicly recognizing and celebrating student achievements can also serve as a form of extrinsic reward. This can include peer recognition, as well. Allow students to recognize and appreciate each other's efforts through peer nominations, or rewards. You can do this with certificates and awards, recognize student accomplishments with certificates, awards, or shout outs in front of the class to celebrate their hard work. I have a freebie in my store called pat on the back, and you can grab that and then it looks like a little handprint. And then kids just fill it out and put it like in a box. And then it's like a shout out. And you can just give it read them like every Friday, and they just shout out their fellow students. And then you can either give them to the kids or hang them up somewhere.

Ellie 7:09

Oh, that's awesome. That's a great way to build confidence as well.

Brittany 7:12

Yeah, we'll link that in the show notes.

Ellie 7:14

Definitely. You could use progress trackers. So you have visual trackers or charts to help students see their progress and motivate them to reach their goals. We used to do this with small monthly calendars in the classroom, students would get a sticker or a stamp every day their homework was completed. And then if they completed a certain percentage or a certain number of days, then they would get a reward for homework completion.

Brittany 7:39

Nice! Parental involvement involve parents by sharing students achievements and progress with notes, emails, or quick phone calls, that can really motivate students to perform well in the classroom.

Ellie 7:52

And thinking about those little calendars, we would have parents sign those at the end of the month, or parents could initial them every day or every week so that they see how many stickers or stamps are earned by their by their child, and then everybody has the same information. And they can also help encourage that completion of homework and be on the same page with that

Brittany 8:13

we used our planners for that we had parents sign planners every night. So and then we could put in little notes and stuff in that as well. But yeah, that works very well to do that. And goal setting encourage students to set their personal goals and provide rewards for achieving them, such as extra free time or a special activity or maybe classroom bucks or tokens from your classroom economy system. We definitely want to try to balance extrinsic rewards with fostering intrinsic motivation. If students are already intrinsically motivated, we don't want to undermine the intrinsic desire to learn and achieve by overwhelming them with extrinsic rewards. extrinsic rewards tend to have more power than intrinsic rewards. So giving extrinsic rewards to intrinsically motivated students does potentially have the ability and power to weaken or overcome their intrinsic motivation. So in some cases, offering a certain extrinsic reward might be for just a handful of students who need that motivational boost.

Ellie 9:24

And on the flip side, do you think that starting with extrinsic rewards for students who don't feel the intrinsic can that help to develop the intrinsic over time like once they get an extrinsic reward and they're like, Okay, that felt really good. Can they eventually hopefully be led to working work on the same things or meet their same goals, you know, and that extrinsic kind of transfers and becomes intrinsic?

Brittany 9:49

I do think that's kind of how it works. If you start like in kindergarten in first grade more with the extrinsic rewards, and then you hope that by fifth, sixth, seventh, they're more intrinsically motivated, right?


And so if they're still more extrinsicly motivated them kind of combine some of these strategies to try to switch from the extrinsic to the intrinsic and get them to feel better and feel more motivated. That can be a tricky thing.


Yeah. But I think all people are a mix, you're going to be a mix of both extrinsic and intrinsic, depending on what the item is that you're dealing with. Because I know, I really enjoy what I do for a living. And so I tend to be very intrinsically motivated,




But I also know that sometimes I have trouble finishing, like doing that last final step, because I have like fear of completion.




fear of failure. And so my husband extrinsically motivates me nice, with gift cards.




to get me to finish projects,


that's great.


And so it's a mix of, you know, I have plenty of projects on my plate. And then to get me to do that last step, I have a gift card at the end waiting for me.


That's exciting. That's awesome.


But we all like our Starbucks coffee or our or our sonic drink or you know, our Louis Vuitton purse or whatever we, we motivate ourselves with, you know, to try to reach our own personal goals so


well whether you find yourself or your students more on the extrinsic or intrinsic side. We hope this episode gave you a few new ideas you can add to this aspect of your teaching toolbox. Remember to follow us on your favorite platforms so you don't miss an episode. See you next time.



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