Extrinsic “VS” or “AND” Intrinsic Motivation?
“Little Boxes, little boxes, on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same…”
The song makes me think about motivation, a lot. Or maybe I was thinking about it before the song and it just drummed it in. We all know that learning doesn’t happen without motivation. But what is it really? Where does it come from?
Extrinsic Motivation (external influences)
e.g. money, rewards, good grades, trophies, certificates, job position
Intrinsic Motivation (internal influences)
e.g. enjoyment of a task, passion, a drive to seek challenges, autonomy, inherent satisfaction
Intrinsic motivation refers to doing something simply because it is enjoyable while extrinsic motivation is more about getting a specific value or outcome based on what you have done (Ryan and Deci, 2000).
Amotivation is basically when you can’t be bothered.
It has also been determined, through extensive empirical research by Deci & Ryan, Vallerand and others over the decades, that extrinsic rewards put a damper on intrinsic motivation. I think though, that we have to be a bit cautious with this sort of thinking as it could very easily lead one into an assumption that extrinsic motivation is bad and that intrinsic motivation is best. A dangerous position I feel, because for the most part, whether we like it or not, our adult language learners are more likely to come to us extrinsically motivated than intrinsically.
They want to learn English to integrate into society, to get a job promotion, to ensure job security, to get a better pay cheque, to speak to their foreign colleagues and close the deal. If not this then they want to know that when they go on holiday, they won’t get lost. Sure, there are a handful of housewives who just fancy learning it, but usually because someone else told them it is the “thing”to do. And the teens mostly just want to pass the course, get the certificate, and get on with life.
So where it all gets a bit sticky for me, is that sometimes our extrinsically motivated learners really enjoy learning. Why not, after all? Sometimes we teachers can inspire them and sometimes their colleagues do and sometimes they develop an interest for the language – but all this interest and high from learning a second language does not take away their primary extrinsic goals.
In more recent research, Ryan and Deci have made a point of re-examining extrinsic motivation more closely, placing extrinsic motivation on a continuum and have created this taxonomy:
But more importantly, if by categorizing motivation into boxes and then onto further hazy sub-boxes, might we be missing out on the fact that humans are infinitely complex creatures who can be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated at exactly the same time?
What d’ya think?