What is Self-Motivation, Anyway?


This image originally appeared on JaredsLog.com

This image originally appeared on JaredsLog.com

A friend recently told me that she doesn’t think I’ve been writing about enough controversial stuff on the blog here lately. So when I happened across this YouTube video today, shared by a colleague on FB, I knew I’d hit pay dirt in the “controversial” category.

First, a bit of background. In education these days pretty much all you hear is how kids should be self-motivated and how systems of reward are damaging for kids. It’s common to hear that, in classrooms, we should encourage kids to do the things that they want to do or like to do, without much unpacking of what history of consequences has led to a child wanting or liking something. Instead, it is as if they magically just started liking something and we should allow that to dictate what they do going forward.

We’ve talked on this blog about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in the past. I’ve even talked about how intrinsic motivation can be aversive. I’ve tried to drive home the fact that intrinsic motivation, as a pattern of behavior, is still an outcome of the learning environment and a set of behavioral contingencies at work. I’ve tried to lay out the argument that “being self-motivated” is produced by a set of complex relations that includes kids having a robust enough skill set to actually engage in whatever task they “choose.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve failed in that effort. But I think Scott Geller, from Virginia Tech, does a much better job than I, in this YouTube video of his talk at Tedx Virginia Tech. See if you don’t agree that this is, simply, awesome.

What are your thoughts?

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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