Seth Godin on External and Internal Motivation

Here’s an excellent blog post that says something that’s been in my mind for some time, and I believe he’s spot on:

Seth Godin Blog

As educators this becomes interesting when we give our thought to how we can ensure that the biggest possible proportion of our students have adequate internal motivation to succeed. Motivation is not something ‘innate’ where each person must just accept the amount and type they are born with. It is also a response and product of environment, habits and common practice and also the choices that are made in how we and children respond to situations.

In an education system driven by positive external motivation in the form of teacher praise, smileys, stars, certificates (give me a certificate for everything!!) and external negative motivation with reprimands, teacher disapproval, rule books etc. are we really doing all that we should or can to help students to develop their internal motivation? I often worry that we’re too fearful to hand over the responsibility and accountability to the child because the adults believe they must ‘make’ the children be successful, do things right, complete the homework on time etc. and if we let them mess up, fail or perform below their best they might make a habit of that, or be overly harsh on themselves at the other extreme. Either way, I fear we’re stacking the odds against children if we’re not creating the environment for healthy development of internal motivation and its close cousin internal accountability.

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One Response

  1. The concern about one’s child accepting bad results or reprimands as his fate and not taking any initiative to better his performance is a big one with parents. And yet, internal accountability and motivation in any individual–a child or adult–are big qualities in one’s repertoire and big gifts to those around them. As parents, we consciously try to give specific responsibilities to our child and let him face its consequences but not for everything or all the time while he’s under our guidance. For instance, my son was determined to buy a particular phone a year ago, even against general advice, as his parameters for its selection were narrow. Our condition was that he’d to live with his selection for at least the next 2 years to come. Within a year, the phone market had expanded and he wanted another one to address his changed needs but our take was to wait it out, research user feedback and get another one only when his resources allowed him that purchase–even though it was tempting to allow him that gratification on his next birthday…
    It’d help to see research on the extent of freeway that helped foster internal motivation for varying age groups to relax the approach by teachers and parents further.

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