Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

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Definition of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation are Fundamental to a CBA
Additional Resources Related to Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

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Definition of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

It is important to be able to recognize whether students are motivated due to internal and/or external factors and how their motivations affect their ability to stay engaged in the learning process and achieve.

Intrinsic motivation reflects an individual’s interests. Individuals act or behave purely for the sake of doing it, for the enjoyment it brings. The decision to act in this way is not dependent on external influences. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, causes a person to act in order to get something in return for the behavior (e.g., a reward or praise) or to avoid punishment. Extrinsic motivation is influenced by others and by situations in which we find ourselves. Although the origin of intrinsic motivation can sometimes start with extrinsic motivators, these terms generally denote what is internal vs. what is external to the individual. It is important for students to be able to identify and distinguish between their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
are Fundamental to a CBA

School counselors help student distinguish between these two types of motivations and how to more effectively manage both to maximize their learning potential. School counselors can help students understand what their interests are that excite them, that they do because they derive enjoyment from them. Intrinsic motivation has been linked to increased interest in learning, accomplishing goals and achieving at higher levels.

It is important that all students understand what things they find to be intrinsically interesting and cultivate and develop their intrinsic interests. Areas of intrinsic interest reflect appropriate career directions and academic specializations. It is likewise important that all students identify the tasks that they must master that are not intrinsically interesting. In these areas they will need to learn to apply self-motivational strategies to direct and sustain their learning behavior.

Students can be taught to identify their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and how these motivators affect their learning. School counselors should deliver curriculum activities that guide them through the process of understanding their motivators and learning strategies for increasing the positive while reducing the negative influences on their learning and lives. The websites in the “Additional Resources” section below provide some strategies for increasing students’ awareness of their motivational patterns and how to control their influence.

Additional Resources Related to Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

The Internet is a wonderful tool for accessing information on just about any topic. It has been invaluable in helping us to identify what research has demonstrated to be strongly related to students’ academic achievement and well-being, and evidence-based practices that provide concrete examples of how to translate the research findings into meaningful learning opportunities that support student development.


Staying informed about what works and does not work to help students achieve and succeed is one of the defining characteristics of a professional school counselor. Internet search engines can be used to develop a deeper understanding of the topics discussed on the CBA Website. To get you started, here are some additional resources you may find helpful. These resources, however, only scratch the surface of what is available on the Internet or in published books and articles. We encourage you to use search engines to find more resources that will increase your understanding and build your capacity to apply these ideas in your work as school counselors.


    This is a beautifully done video on intrinsic motivation that can be used with students. It relates how intrinsic motivation plays a crucial role in all our lives, makes us wake up every morning, what makes each and every one of us unique and want to achieve something greater. Intrinsic motivation is what makes us want to become better and improve ourselves.