The education system has extrinsic motivation imbedded in it through the grading process. From a young age children are aware of their academic performance through their grades. They learn that their performance affects the grades that they receive. This is the first form of extrinsic motivation every child is aware of and exposed to. For many it is enough to motivate them to succeed academically. Some teachers, however, choose to provide students with further extrinsic motivation, such as giving students stars when they read a book or behave well. I believe it is important, however, that teachers strike a balance. In life, we don’t always receive rewards for the things we do and students need to learn that some things need to be done whether we receive a reward or not. As well, motivation doesn’t have to be in the form of something tangible such as a sticker or a candy bar, but can be verbal. Students are often motivated by simple appreciation such as telling them that they did a great job.
I believe that the Ryan and Deci argument that children are largely unmotivated due to poorly implemented course content is extremely valid. I have seen this when volunteering in classrooms and have experienced it myself as a student. When course content is poorly implemented, for a variety of reasons, whether it be poor delivery or lack of relevance to students’ lives, students become disengaged. If they find something boring then they are unmotivated to pay attention and learn the material. As well, if the material is not being delivered effectively, whether this is because the teacher is not successfully explaining the material so that students can understand it or simply because the material is too advanced, students will be lost. When students are lost they often adopt a defeatist attitude and avoid engaging themselves in the course material because they assume that they will fail and therefore that it is pointless. As well, when course content is irrelevant to students they might be unmotivated because they don’t see the gain in learning the content. For this reason, it is important to ensure that course content is made relevant to students, and that they understand that fractions will help them equally divide the pizza between family members, for example. By understanding that material and content is relevant to their lives and will help them function in society and solve daily problems they will be more willing to participate and learn.