Stimulating Students'
Motivation to Learn

In short, intrinsic motivation cannot constitute a sufficient and stable motivational basis for schooling in general or a predesigned curriculum in particular. It will encourage an orientation toward activity based on immediate satisfaction rather than on values. Contrary to claims made by some psychologists, intrinsically motivated students will not be consistently motivated. Certain aspects of the curriculum will interest them, while others will not; at times they will study, and at times they will not. Thus, students who rely exclusively on intrinsic motivation are likely to neglect a large part of their schoolwork.

Most students, however, do not do this. The average student in a good school tends to do the work even when a subject does not arouse high intrinsic motivation and even when rewards and punishments are not salient. What, then, is the source of such students' hard work? the students share the belief of the curriculum designers that the program is desirable and valuable.

—Nisan (1992, pp. 129–130)


I share the view expressed by Mordecai Nisan in this quotation, which is why I place more emphasis on motivation to learn than on intrinsic motivation. By motivation to learn, I mean a student's tendency to find academic activities meaningful and worthwhile and to try to get the intended learning benefits from them. In contrast to intrinsic motivation, which is primarily an affective response to an activity, motivation to learn is primarily a cognitive


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Motivating Students to Learn


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