Intrinsic Motivation Wasn’t Built in a Day

“Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding. This contrasts with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishments.”

I’m writing this post after the second Face-to-Face session (my first). I am completely overwhelmed – with ideas, with motivation, with awe for these amazing teachers I’m surrounded by, with new edu-language I’m picking up. I feel even more unsatisfied with my teaching than before I came. BUT, I feel more hopeful and supported in my journey to change.

This F2F was all about using Design Thinking to focus our ideas into an actionable question to explore in our practice. This was my first experience with Design Thinking, but I’m already planning to use it with my Grade 6’s for an upcoming Science PBL.

Coming into this session, I knew I wanted to focus on math education. And I thought I might want to look at how to make math more accessible for each of my students. As we discussed today I began to think that maybe the problem in my math class is that students are only there to get a grade. I was reflecting on my 6 Science class, which is becoming a bit of a theme here. I have been teaching them for almost three months now and not one, not one SINGLE student, has asked about their grade. I haven’t given back a single summative grade. They have seen no numbers. When I compare the conversations I have with those 11 year olds to those I have with the Grade 11 and 12 students, I get a bit sad. When did the shift occur from learning because it’s fun and awesome and intrinsically rewarding, to learning because it’s going to open post-secondary doors?

After much conversation with my feedback partner and new friend, @jweening, I think I’ve settled upon my research/action plan question.

How might we increase intrinsic motivation in the mtumblr_m76c1hUQqu1r2jl5wo1_500ath classroom?

How can I shift my classroom from the classic deliver content, provide an opportunity to apply said content, and move on model, to engaging students fully in their learning? To helping them see the value of mathematics in their lives, rather than a subject that is out to get them?

I arrived back to school energized and excited, and I shared my idea with colleagues in the math department. Now they’re excited as well. We’ve started speaking, again, about bringing in guest presenters to discuss the way math influences their daily lives. I need to carve out some time over the next few weeks to do some research on making math applicable and rewarding for all students. I plan to start re-vamping my Grade 11 Math Studies curriculum after the break!


Quote taken from


4 thoughts on “Intrinsic Motivation Wasn’t Built in a Day

  1. Great first post, and I can totally empathize with that feeling of being judgemental of my history, but hopeful of my future. I think back to that Grade 9 English class I taught 17yrs ago…ugh… I mean, I am sure that they learned something, but I am not sure that I really leveraged their skills, inspiration and ideas as much as I could have today, or could perhaps even more tomorrow…

    You MUST read Ruth’s blog: (@reichholtz) She is presenting at ISOMA in the new year too – we are so fortunate to have her as a coach in Cohort 21, so take advantage!

  2. I love your action plan question!! It is something I work at all day every day too… with varied results. One key for me is getting to know my audience – intrinsic motivation is different for every student and tapping into it often requires a very personal approach. I look forward to seeing what you come up with and talking more about how to create the “intellectual need” (as Dan Meyer calls it) and how to generate the personal satisfaction in the subject that drives the intrinsic motivation.

  3. Kate,
    I’m obviously a little behind in my blog reading, but your action plan question is fantastic! The phrasing of your question leaves it open enough for a wide array of possible solutions, but specific enough to really get to the heart of your problem. I’m also struggling with getting students to see the value in learning, rather than just grades and I still don’t have any answers. I would love to talk more about this. You should also check out @ehitchcock‘s work on standards based assessment from last year. It seems like a really effective approach to shifting student’s thinking towards skills and learning and away from grades. He will be at the F2F at MaRS tomorrow!
    See you soon,

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