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How to Build Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

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For educators, the dream is to have a classroom full of students that are engaged, enthusiastic, and driven by a love of learning for the sake of learning. These intrinsically-motivated, knowledge-pursuing, ideal students are not that easy to find, but they are somewhere easier to develop. If your classroom is interesting, challenging, and fulfilling, you can help students develop intrinsic motivation that helps them to become lifelong learners.

Let’s start with these seven ideas for building intrinsic motivation in students, before going on to explore the crucial role of simulations, and why educators benefit from intrinsically motivated students.

Provide Opportunities for Autonomy

Giving students choices and control over their learning can increase their sense of autonomy and intrinsic motivation. Research has found that when students have autonomy over their learning, they are more likely to engage in their work and feel a sense of ownership over their achievements.

Tip: Ask them what they want to learn about!

Encourage Mastery Goals

Focusing on mastery goals, rather than performance goals, can help students develop a love of learning for its own sake. Mastery goals emphasize developing skills and understanding, rather than achieving a certain grade or ranking. Studies have found that students who focus on mastery goals are more likely to enjoy their learning and to be intrinsically motivated to continue learning.

Tip: Find opportunities to teach things that everyone can learn, rather than grading or testing on the depth of knowledge. 

Provide Feedback

Feedback can be a powerful motivator when it is given in a way that is informative, non-judgmental, and actionable. Studies have found that students who receive progressive feedback that is focused on improvement and growth are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to continue learning. Remember that every word an educator says to a student can have a profound and long-lasting effect, such is the position of power - use this knowledge wisely. 

Tip: Make sure you commit to your office hours and are careful with your feedback. 

Foster a Growth Mindset

Encouraging a growth mindset can help students develop a belief in their own ability to learn and grow. Research has found that students who have a growth mindset are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to learn.

Tip: Dig deeper into growth mindset theory and share your findings with your students - this can unlock a profound change.

Create a Supportive Classroom Environment

A supportive classroom environment can help students feel valued and connected, which can lead to greater intrinsic motivation. Studies have found that when students feel that their teachers care about them and their learning, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.

Tip: Be a friend, as well as an educator. 

Offer Challenge

Providing appropriately challenging tasks can help students feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery, which can increase intrinsic motivation. Research has found that when tasks are too easy, students may become bored, but when tasks are too difficult, they may become frustrated and give up.

Tip: Make use of online tools that meet the needs of individuals, rather than offering copy & paste courses.

Tap Into Student Interests

Incorporating student interests and passions into the curriculum can help students feel more invested in their learning. Research has found that when students are given opportunities to pursue topics that interest them, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.

Tip: They’re on your course because it interests them - make it interesting!

The Role of Simulations in Building Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

Simulations can play an important role in creating intrinsically motivated students by providing a challenging and engaging learning experience that taps into students' interests and promotes mastery goals. Through our years of experience working with educators and students, StratX has built simulations that truly click with both parties and get incredible results.

These educational tools simulate real-world scenarios, allowing students to apply theoretical concepts to practical situations, but without genuine risk. They can help students develop a range of skills, from critical thinking and decision-making to teamwork and communication, all while fostering a sense of autonomy and ownership over their learning. The proof is in the smiles and laughter as students take on the challenge with their peers. 

By providing a realistic and engaging environment in which to learn, simulations can tap into students' intrinsic interest in the subject matter, promoting a desire to learn and understand more deeply. In addition, simulations can promote mastery goals, which are goals that focus on the process of learning and improving, rather than just achieving a particular outcome. By providing opportunities for students to practice and refine their skills over time, whilst playing to their strengths and interests, simulations can help students develop a growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and ability can be developed through hard work and persistence (as opposed to innate talent).

Why Should You Create Intrinsically-Motivated Students?

Teachers should want to have intrinsically motivated students because they are more likely to be engaged, enthusiastic learners who are driven by a love of learning for its own sake. That kind of behaviour is infectious in the classroom, and can have genuine long-term benefits. 

Put simply, when students are intrinsically motivated, they are motivated by the inherent satisfaction and enjoyment they derive from the learning process, rather than by external rewards (such as titles and prizes) or pressures (like parents and minimum requirements). As a result, they are more likely to be active, enthusiastic participants in their own education, seeking out new knowledge, asking questions, and exploring topics in depth.

How to Identify an Intrinsically-Motivated Student?

If a student starts to show you the following qualities, you can congratulate yourself for helping to create an intrinsically-motivated learners:

  • A deeper and more enduring understanding of the learning material
  • Asks great questions to get deeper into the materials
  • Not interested in memorizing information for a test, but really knowing it
  • Engages in deep processing and critical thinking
  • Appears to retain information better
  • Helps other students and wants to share their learnings
  • Self-directed and persistent in their approach to learning
  • Sets their own goals and milestones
  • Manages their time well
  • Sees challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth

Consider all of these things in terms of day-to-day life and how useful they are, and you can see that intrinsic motivation not only leads to better academic outcomes, but also prepares them for success in life beyond the classroom.

Conclusion: Start Now & Don’t Stop Growing!

Research has shown that there are a number of strategies that can be effective in building intrinsic motivation in the classroom. By providing opportunities for autonomy, encouraging mastery goals, providing feedback, fostering a growth mindset, creating a supportive classroom environment, offering appropriately challenging tasks, and tapping into student interests, we can help our students become more intrinsically motivated and more engaged in their learning. 

To some extent, all of these things can be achieved through the use of simulations, so get in touch with StratX Simulations today and see how we can help set your students on a path to finding success (intrinsically).