Developing Intrinsic Motivation in Students

How do we as teachers develop a students’ intrinsic motivation? We cannot directly develop intrinsic motivation, however, we can develop a method of support for students through tasks which promote “competence, autonomy, and relatedness” (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

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Extrinsic motivators become less effective over time and do not translate into intrinsic motivation for the student. As teachers, we must inspire feelings of competence, mastery, and achievement through the use of scaffolded tasks designed to make incremental gains in mastery and achievement. Setting tasks which are too challenging or too simplistic for the students’ ability, has negative effects on the development intrinsic motivation. Setting tasks which are at the optimal level of challenge for the student will positively impact on the development of intrinsic motivation. 


A knowledgable and skilled teacher is able to accurately assess and sequence a structured program of learning, which enables a student to make the incremental gains and achievements, ultimately developing a sense of task mastery in students. Through this sense of task mastery, students’ will progress towards becoming an intrinsically motivated learner. 


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self Determination in Human Behaviour.

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