Why is fostering Intrinsic Motivation key for a Thinking School?

2024… another year of opportunity! For many, the New Year heralds a chance to take stock and think about what changes we can make in our daily lives. However, are you still just about reeling from the challenges of last term? Being up for the challenge sometimes is easier than sticking to it. Rather than setting goals that have fallen by the wayside before the month is out, we wanted to think about the key elements to help you and your students make it.

As school leaders we seek to create the conditions in which a person feels disposed to be intrinsically motivated. And that is possible. But first you need to know what motivates a teacher or a child, because we are not all motivated by the same aspirations or activities. This, surely, is one of the most important tasks for a teacher – to help students identify what motivates them, deep down. It has taken me many years to realise that achieving what you want is almost always possible; it’s knowing what you want that’s the hard part.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Socrates

There has never been a time when it has been so important for the academic and pastoral sides of school life to work in unison with each other. The demands and pressures placed on young people within our modern society are larger than ever and we need to show equal commitment to the performance of the whole child and help the intrinsic drive towards success and self-satisfaction. The first step of the metacognitive cycle is about setting goals and directing ourselves towards them. Thankfully, in a Thinking School, we know that the most effective way to achieve it is by following the steps of Deliberate Practice. When the goal is broken down into small manageable steps, spaced into sensible intervals and involves the support of an expert we are more likely to get there. As we tick off each step, that element of satisfaction fuels our intrinsic motivation and encourages us to keep going. Receiving feedback and support helps us to monitor our progress and adjust our skills accordingly. 

In the EEF’s guidance report into Metacognition and Self-Regulation, Step 4 and 6 specifically outline the importance of motivation to support pupils to become metacognitive and self-regulating learners. Pupils must have the motivation to accept the challenge and teachers should also support pupils’ motivation to undertake the learning tasks.

Benefits for learning

The benefits continue as motivated students are more likely to be intrinsically engaged in their learning. When students find the material relevant, challenging and understand how to master it, they are more likely to invest time and effort into understanding and applying concepts. Once that first goal is achieved, it is helping wire their neural pathways and teaching them good habits that they are capable of succeeding. This increases willingness to persist in the face of challenges and put in the effort required to master complex skills and concepts. In a thinking school, where critical thinking and problem-solving are emphasised, students need to be motivated to tackle difficult problems and persevere until they find solutions.

Motivation for improvement

Motivated students are more likely to reflect on their learning, identify areas of strength and weakness, and actively seek strategies for improvement. They learn to take ownership of their learning and are more likely to set goals, monitor their progress, and take responsibility for their academic success. In summary, motivation is a driving force that enhances the overall effectiveness of a Thinking School. It contributes to a positive learning environment, encourages creativity and innovation, and prepares students for a future that requires continuous learning and adaptability.

Become a Member of the Thinking Schools Network and take advantage of our FREE Consultancy to review where your organisation is in terms of ‘whole school metacognition’ – amongst a raft of other invaluable benefits including great classroom resources

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