Two Motivations!

Controlled and Autonomous

The last few postings have looked at the research describing a wide range of motivations and demotivations in teaching staff and, by implication, in students as well.

In 1985, Edward Deci, the father of the research on motivation described two ways that we can be motivated, two forms of motivation that can be supported by teachers and leaders.

Controlled motivation consists of rewards and punishments that put us under pressure to perform and Autonomous (or intrinsic) motivation which increases engagement through us doing things that interest us or we enjoy or, if that is not the case, link to a deep value that makes them worth doing.  Where that deep value is a connection to a teacher that they do not want to break, then students will engage in all their work.

Since then there have been hundreds of studies that show with autonomous motivation we become more creative, better at problem-solving, better performing (particularly at complex tasks), we experience more positive emotions and we are physically and psychologically healthier.  Autonomous motivation is the way to develop 21st century skills.

Noon - rest from work - Vincent van Gogh.jpg

There is ample evidence that controlled motivation ought to play no role in the education of our children and, when it does, it holds them back.

However, we have a toolbox with both forms of motivation and the default form for many is controlled motivation.  If a child is disengaged we pull out controlled motivation that just disengages them further, rather than supporting their autonomous motivation which will lead to greater engagement.

This is easy to say but hard to do.  It is here where the practice of encounter becomes so crucial as it supports the autonomous motivation of both teacher and child, allowing both to engage more deeply and grow in healthy, adaptive ways.

John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.

John Corrigan