In order to accomplish any task, regardless of how menial or significant, a person must be motivated. Whether an individual is driven by an internal force or an external reward depends largely upon his attitude. Of course, motivation is important in education. Learning is the gradual acquisition of information, understandings, facts, attitudes, values and skills applied by teachers and other adults which the individual acquires in the course of growing up. . . . Some people are motivated from within, by interests, curiosity, care or abiding values. These intrinsic motivations are not necessarily externally rewarded or supported, but nonetheless they can sustain passions, creativity, and sustained efforts. The ability to cultivate intrinsic motivation is a challenge that teachers face. In fact, educators have long relied upon providing some types of external motivators (grades being the most obvious) to encourage their students. However, research has demonstrated that external rewards (like payment for good grades) are actually short lived and sometimes actually serve as de-motivators. Then the student can believe that his self-worth is contingent upon his performance on criteria that the teacher has established.
Intrinsic motivation has emerged as an important phenomenon for educators—a natural wellspring of learning and achievement that can be systematically catalyzed or undermined by parent and teacher practices (Ryan &Stiller, 1991). People will work long and hard perfecting their abilities in a sport, hobby or talent for the self satisfaction they derive in the endeavor. Being able to generate that same feeling within a learning environment can prompt intrinsic motivation.
Allowing students to become active participants in their learning can pave the way to the development of self determination and intrinsic motivation. One operative concept here is choice. Rather than create an authoritarian environment that stifles learning, teachers can be authoritative and provide choice in any number of ways: When will students submit an assignment? Will they work on a project alone or with a partner? What form will their assessment be? When given a number of assignments to complete, what sequence will they prefer? Helping students to recognize the satisfaction of intrinsic motivation is more rewarding than providing them with content information alone.