Extrinsic "VS" or "AND" Intrinsic Motivation?

In the last couple of weeks prior to restarting classes, I've been watching a lot of television. The weather's not been particularly nice and I'm too poor to do anything else.  That's the downside to being a student at my age, I guess.  The upside is: imagine the best conference you've ever been to and think of one of the great presentations - one that has really had an impact on your teaching... now imagine that instead of a 45 minute session you get to have access to months of amazing lectures, group discussions and articles to read to follow up and challenge yourself with.  So, poverty is worth it, I guess.

But anyway, back to TV, one of the theme songs, from Weeds, has become a real earworm.  It goes, for those of you who don't know it,

"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?


Usually, it gets boiled down into three categories:


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:



The idea is that learners can be in a state of external regulation (wanting rewards or avoiding criticism), or one of introjected regulation (constraints are internalized and set by the learner).  Identified regulation means that the behavior is thought of as being self-determined and finally the last type is integrated regulation - the person learns willingly because it fits in with the rest of the life activities and life goals (Vallerand, 1992).

Despite the fact that there is so much literature on extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and I'll continue reviewing it all, I really can't help but wonder if motivation is not actually something quite fluid. Can't you (or our learners) be one type and the next day, another?


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?


Best,
Karenne

image credits:
plant fondo oscuro by eric caballero

References:
Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 25, 54-67.

Vallerand, R. & Bissonnette, R. (1992). Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Amotivational Styles as Predictors of Behavior: A Prospective Study. Journal of Personality. 60:3. 599-620.

9 Responses to “Extrinsic "VS" or "AND" Intrinsic Motivation?”

  • little_miss_bossy says:
    February 06, 2012

    I think we can - speaking from experience btw.
    Having learnt five foreign languages (English, Russian, Turkish, French and Spanish) I can clearly tell you that motivation is a very tricky thing.

  • Willy says:
    February 07, 2012

    Yes, we are missing out on the complexity of mainly everything 'educational' we put our hands on, with the false belief that by freezing and atomizing stuff like motivation we will find a way to "fix it". In our field that applies to research methods and analyses and it trickles all the way down to classroom teaching, with a couple of completely unnecessary taxonomies in the middle.

  • Richard Gresswell says:
    February 09, 2012

    Interesting post as always Karenne - I'm a huge fan of Bonny Norton, who did a fascinating study of women migrants to Canada and their English language learning. She wrote all this up in a book 'identity and language learning' (2000). In her analysis she takes into account relations of power in regarding the women's positions as migrants, as women, as educated etc. In doing this she re-coins motivation in terms of what she calls 'investment'. What Norton points out is that people have the power to speak (and to be listened to) based on the opportunities they have to invest 'captial' (Bourdieu). So in other words for people who are disempowered for whatever reasons are less able to invest in langauge learning in this case. I believe this is why some learners may come across as being 'unmotivated' when really the issue is that they are disempowered. From this perspective then an objective of teachers is to empower learners, rather than to 'motivate'.

    Sorry to waffle - Bonny's work is well worth reading on your 'motivation' journey :)

    Best wishes
    Richard

  • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
    February 12, 2012

    Thanks, Anita. I think you're right - I'd love to know more about your motivation to learn each of those languages.


    Hi ya, Willy,
    I could not agree more - I wonder if it's the human condition to label things in an attempt to understand them but of course, this leads only to our misunderstanding them...

  • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
    February 12, 2012

    Richard, you're a genius. Am heading to the library to get this Bonny Norton book. Empowerment is an interesting precept, I think it extends beyond those in extraordinary circumstances but can be as much an issue for the German Businessman as the Russian housewife..

    More later, have to think this through.

  • Anonymous says:
    February 12, 2012

    Great article! Research has proven when extrinsic motivation comes into play kids get introduced to activities where they are intrinsically pleased, which makes the extrinsic reward unnecessary. There are always kids who will seek the extrinsic reward for a certain activity and truly believe this is the only path to achieving it. I think it’s important to allow extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to work hand in hand that way when a child develops the behavior you would like him/her to do so it makes it easier to dissolve the external motivators and bring about the intrinsic motivation. It can be dangerous to reward kids extrinsically with the activities they enjoy intrinsically. For example, if a child is tutoring another child and someone comes along and offers rewards for doing the activity, they come to engage in the activity less.

  • miss314 says:
    February 12, 2012

    Great article! Research has proven when extrinsic motivation comes into play kids get introduced to activities where they are intrinsically pleased, which makes the extrinsic reward unnecessary. There are always kids who will seek the extrinsic reward for a certain activity and truly believe this is the only path to achieving it. I think it’s important to allow extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to work hand in hand that way when a child develops the behavior you would like him/her to do so it makes it easier to dissolve the external motivators and bring about the intrinsic motivation. It can be dangerous to reward kids extrinsically with the activities they enjoy intrinsically. For example, if a child is tutoring another child and someone comes along and offers rewards for doing the activity, they come to engage in the activity less.

  • Janet Auckland says:
    April 05, 2012

    Hello. This is the first time I have been motivated to comment on a post, so well done! I teach adults near Barcelona and I am looking for help with pronunciation more than motivation but it is really interesting to read your comments on this. I find students' motivation levels and levels of frustration with things like pronunciation vary a lot. Also, they don't progress very quickly with only one class a week but I don't want to go away from student centred learning to become a vocabulary list memorising robot teacher like some other very popular rivals.

  • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
    April 05, 2012

    Hi Janet,

    Thank you for joining in :). I agree and am so fascinated by the process of motivation or rather the psychology behind it all that this semester one of my video projects is on working on how to describe something called the Attribution Theory! More soon...

 

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