I mentioned the importance of motivation in the last post. Motivation has always been considered as a great unknown that can vary greatly between students. But, in fact, motivation has been studied extensively for three decades by at least one psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, formerly of the University of Chicago. It was also recently outlined in a popular non-fiction book called “Drive.”
For intrinsic motivation (motivation not dependent on external or monetary rewards), there needs to be three important conditions. They are: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
Autonomy refers to having control over your own learning – very much an adult learning principle. Adults want to have control over all aspects of their lives and that very much includes their learning. But mass universal schooling dictates that everyone complete the same curriculum in the same way. The control of what is learned is left entirely to the teacher and school district.
The second condition required for intrinsic motivation is Mastery, which refers to having learning that is just above a student’s current level of ability. But with our one-size-fits-all curriculum, everyone must learn at the same pace and at the same level as everyone else.
Lastly, the third condition required for intrinsic motivation is Purpose which refers to knowing the direct personal and societal benefit to one’s learning. However, most of what is learned in school is too abstract to have any real-world purpose, and there is no integration of the curriculum with its real-world purposes. Successful learning at the later grades and beyond will require that these three critical motivation factors be integrated into public education.