When it comes to learning, there two apparent types of learners’ attitudes. Some learners who attend classes for their profound desire to learn, while others simply think that they are being forced to learn rather than just being taught. Surely, both attitudes are the results of motivation.

Motivation, as defined by Dörnyei (2005) is “a dynamic, continuously changing resultant of a variety of internal and external forces”. And there are two basic types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is based on internal drives, while extrinsic motivation is about external drives.

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

 If you often say things like “English classes interest me” or “I am delightful to attend extra English classes because I like the subject” then you are probably a person who is intrinsically motivated towards that particular subject. As the name suggests, intrinsically motivated people undertake an activity for “its own sake, for the enjoyment it provides, the learning it permits, or the feelings of accomplishment it evokes”. Prominent advantages of having intrinsic motivation are:

  • Intrinsic motivation can be long-lasting and self-sustaining as it drives out the feeling of enjoyment when learning particular subjects or executing tasks. Thus, it does not depend on explicit rewards to excel (Schunk, Pintrich & Meece, 2008)
  • Having a higher tendency to employ strategies that are more challenging and demanding.
  • Enable learners to process information more deeply and may result in adapting well to complex subjects.
  • Preference towards challenging tasks and unlikely to settle down with easy tasks.
  • Linked to higher learning achievement, the perception of competence, and self-efficacy and is also known to negatively correlate with anxiety, depression and frustration (Gottfield, 1985 and 1900; Lepper, Corpus & Iyengar, 2005).

Benefits of Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is the opposite of intrinsic motivation. Learners are prone to have external factors to motivate them in doing something. Praise, winning a trophy, stickers, awards, etc., are often used to exert extrinsic motivation. Extrinsically motivated learner will say things like, “I need an A in English to get a good job”, “If I fail physics, I will lose my scholarship”, or “I am studying hard for this subject just to pass.” However, it does benefit learners in some ways too:

  • Respond well to competition and the opportunity to best others as they are strategically primed towards the rewards offered.
  • Easier to administer as a teacher compared to intrinsic motivation in language learning.
  • As for learning new subjects information, extrinsic rewards work best, more quickly, and more powerfully than intrinsic ones (Lowman, 1990).

In a nutshell, balancing both motivations will result in a greater success for learners in learning any subjects or languages. Which kind of student are you: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, or a mixture of both? Let us know on Twitter. 


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