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Motivation Module 6:

Developing Intrinsic Motivation


Background Information

Intrinsic motivation is the feeling associated with the drive to do something for its own sake and is a key characteristic of creativity. Four types of intrinsic motivation include Creative Motivation, Competence Motivation, Learning/Exploring Motivation, and Attitude Motivation, (Brown, 2020) that are described as follows:


Creative Motivation 
People are likely to display the highest level of creativity when motivated by their deep involvement and passion for the work, i.e., finding interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge in it (Amabile, 1996.) The higher the creator’s intrinsic motivation, the more creative and original they will be. Conversely, the more focused on extrinsic motivation (e.g., rewards or punishments for doing well or badly), the less creative they will be (Amabile, 1979; Deci & Ryan, 2008; Torr, 2008).


Competence Motivation

Competence motivation theory explains individuals' motivation to participate, persist, and work hard in any particular achievement context (Competence Motivation Theory - Sports Psychology - IResearchNet, 2019). Thus, individuals are attracted to participation in activities in which they feel competent or capable.


Learning/Exploring Motivation

The Learning/Exploring motivation causes people to look for new things and see new perspectives and is related to self-directed learning, where students take an active versus passive role in managing their time and assessing their own progress. This encourages intrinsic motivation as there is no outside pressure to perform or meet deadlines.


Attitude Motivation

Attitude motivation is type of intrinsic motivation that relates to social status and behavior whereby attitude motivation addresses making people around them feel good, which brings joy, and folks are motivated to do more.



Let Your Passions Guide Competence 

  • Let Your Passions Guide Competence is an intrinsic motivation awareness building activity designed to support students’ identification of concepts and feelings associated with competence. To do this, students are first prompted to think about passions, or concepts that bring them the greatest joy, happiness, fun, or excitement. Once ideas are recorded, students are prompted again. This time, students are encouraged to record the emotions experienced related to all passions. Explain that intrinsic motivation is different for everyone; therefore, the ideas and activities that drive one may not drive others. The passions and feelings just recorded represent the students’ first definitions and awareness of their unique competences and individual intrinsic motivation. Accessing and articulating the competences associated with passions can help students practice intrinsic motivation. See Creativity Module  xxx, the Neuroscience of Creativity in chapter 9 that mentions the role of practice. 

  • Practicing feelings and uses of intrinsic motivation can support engagement and inner drive. Drawing mindful attention to the intrinsic motivation process is the first step in developing and utilizing this motivation skill. For this reason, it should be reflected upon often as a powerful factor in the learning process

Pick a Passion, Any Passion (Relatedness) 

Pick a Passion, Any Passion builds intrinsic motivation activation points. These passions help students identify and articulate intrinsic motivation. The activity supports students in identifying and recording what drives them naturally. These recordings not only provide access points for students to tap into intrinsic motivation, but also opportunities for teachers and administrators to show relatedness to individual learning. The next time a student is feeling unmotivated to learn, they can revisit the passion recordings to spark a connection that leads to curiosity. Knowing how to activate one’s intrinsic motivation or inner drive is a powerful tool to facilitate learning. 

What Makes Them Tick? 

Teachers can extend this activity into other disciplines. What Makes Them Tick? provides practice in noticing what drives others by discussing characters in a story, studying historical figures, or investigating current scientific events. This activity can be used to build awareness of intrinsic motivation in individuals or groups encouraging students to consider the intrinsic motivation of others as demonstrated in the following prompts: 


Prompts for Reading Comprehension 

  • What is driving the character? 

  • Why is the character not motivated to engage? 

  • What does the character love more than anything else? 

  • What does the character think they need? 

  • What does the character despise? 


Prompts for Historical Figures 

  • What pulled this person toward that act? 

  • Why was this person not motivated to act? 

  • What did the person love more than anything else? 

  • What did the person believe they needed? 

  • Who did the person consider an enemy? 


Prompts for Current Events 

  • Why is this groups pulled toward that idea? 

  • Why is the group not motivated to act? 

  • What does this groups want more than anything else? 

  • What does the group believe everyone needs? 

  • What does the group consider wrong? 

Me? Super Powers? (Autonomy) 

Autonomy is the feeling of being in control and to practice it, you must first recognize this super power. Specifically, autonomy means anything the student can execute independently with both confidence and a feeling of control. It occurs when one has both competence and opportunity to engage independently. Just as individuals have different intrinsic motivations, everyone feels autonomy differently. Supporting students to identify and articulate one’s autonomy builds an access point to practicing positive self-image.  

Prior to starting this activity, be sure students have completed the Let Your Passions Guide You activity at the start of this section. To begin, refer students to their notes from the Let Your Passions Guide You activity. Provide time for students to review their passions. Reflecting upon intrinsic motivation provides awareness of what makes one feel autonomous or in control. With awareness of what motivates them intrinsically, students are ready to move to the next part of the activity, considering when they feel most in control. 

Prompt students to consider how control factors into their passions. Question prompts can include: What do you have control over while engaging with your passion? What does your body control while engaging with your passions?  How does this control make you feel? What does having this control mean to you? 

Everyone has a Super Power 

To facilitate autonomy, teachers can extend this activity into other disciplines. Everyone has a Super Power provides practice in noticing autonomy in others. This activity can be used to build awareness of autonomy in individuals or groups. Use autonomy to frame and discuss characters in a story or writing piece, historical figures, or current scientific events. Encouraging students to consider the autonomy of others provides fluency and flexibility with the concept. Prompts for extension activities for other disciplines follows. 

Prompts for Reading Comprehension 

  • What did the character have control over? 

  • What behavior shows they felt control?  

  • How does this control make the character feel? 

  • What does having control over this mean to the character? 

  • What does the character not have control over? 


Prompts for Historical Figures 

  • What did the historical figure have control over? 

  • What behavior shows the historical figure felt control?  

  • How does this control make the historical figure feel? 

  • What does having control over this mean to the historical figure? 

  • What does the historical figure not have control over? 

  • What did the historical figure’s enemy control? 


 Prompts for Current Events 

  • What does the group control? 

  • How does this control make the group feel? 

  • What does having control over this mean to the group? 

  • What does the group not have control over?

The Gift of Curiosity

Intrinsic motivation in the form of curiosity results from the need to obtain missing information to reduce or eliminate a deficit feeling. A baby’s curiosity motivates them to crawl and later walk toward an engaging toy. Humans are all naturally curious, and this curiosity sparks our passions. As with all intrinsic motivations, curiosity becomes more individualized with age. What sparks curiosity in one student may cause feelings of boredom or disengagement in another.


The Gift of Curiosity activity is a quick and engaging way to demonstrate the power of curiosity as intrinsic motivation. Create a small gift bag for each student. School supplies are a common item to place inside each  bag. Display the gift bags in the room and watch the curiosity manifest. When it is time for the activity, ask students if they want to know what is in the bag.  

Follow this experience with prompts that help students elaborate on curiosity. Prompts to consider include: What made you curious? Why? What did that curiosity feel like in your body? How would you draw this feeling? What else has made you curious lately? Why? Can you think of other things you are curious about? 




The following link provides in depth suggestions for assessing intrinsic motivation. 

Learner describes Creative Motivation, Competence Motivation, Learning/Exploring Motivation, and Attitude Motivation orally or in writing.

Learner gives at least one example of Creative Motivation, Competence Motivation, Learning/Exploring Motivation, and Attitude Motivation either orally or in writing.

Learner displays self-directed behavior when engaged in rule compliance.

The teacher keeps a log of selected students engaged in activities 1 to 4 to provide them with relevant feedback.

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