Increasing Engagement on Classroom Tasks
(Extrinsic Versus Intrinsic Motivation)

Citation: Huitt, W. (2005). Increasing engagement on classroom tasks: Extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from

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For tasks that are repetitive and boring:

It is unlikely that students will be tricked into being intrinsicly motivated towards these types of tasks. It is therefore important to keep these to an absolute minimum and use them only for the most essential skills. They should be introduced in a positive manner, but they are likely to be done only if the extrinisic reward is desired and attainable.

For tasks that are moderately difficult and not particularly boring:

It is important to present these types of tasks in a positive manner. Brophy (1986) gives the following examples:

"I think you will like this book. Someone picked it out for me, and it's really good."

"This is a really strange story. It's written in the first person, so that the person talking is the one who wrote the story about his experience. It has some pretty interesting words in it. They are on the board."

"Percent is very important. Banks use it for interest loans, and so on. So it is important that you pay attention."

"You're going to need to know fractions for math next year. You will need fractions in the world to come."

Extrinsic rewards should be used only as necessary and should be withdrawn in a steady fashion over the time that the topic or unit is covered. Students should also see some relatively immediate use of the information and skills being learned.

For tasks that are enjoyable or interesting:

Present the task in a positive manner but do not over any extrinsic rewards. If possible use these tasks in the future as extrinsic rewards for less enjoyable tasks.

Adapted from: Stipek, D. (1988). Motivation to learn: From theory to practice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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