Build Students’ Intrinsic Motivation – Bay Area Discovery Museum

STEM Tip: Build Students’ Intrinsic Motivation


When students are intrinsically motivated to learn, it’s because the topic is meaningful to them and they have a genuine curiosity for it, rather than because they expect a prize or a reward. Building students’ intrinsic motivation to discover new subjects and new ideas will help them develop into lifelong learners.

How to incorporate this in your classroom

1. Create opportunities for open-ended questions

Open-ended questions require a full answer, rather than a simple “yes” or “no”. Answering open-ended questions requires students to think critically, which in turn sparks their curiosity to learn more. Incorporate activities where you can ask your students open-ended questions, and give them time to ask questions too. For example, when reading a book, ask students to predict what will happen next before you turn the page, and why they think that. When you’re done reading, give students time to ask their own questions about the characters or plotline.

2. Allow experimentation before explanation

When starting a new unit in your science or math lessons, give your students time to experiment with the topic, before you start your instruction. For example, before teaching students about force, give them time to interact with pendulums. Ask them to hypothesize what is guiding the pendulum rhythm, and to suggest different tests or experiments that could help them figure it out.

3. Share additional resources

It’s important for students to know that there is no end to learning, even after they’ve taken a test or passed an evaluation. Create a library of additional resources that you can point your students to for further learning, whether that be books you can’t cover during class time or real-world examples of topics that they’re interested in.

The Research Shows

When children are intrinsically motivated, they often enter a state of flow and become fully immersed in their learning or doing. They are engaged in learning for the sake of learning, and not because they want to get a certain grade or earn a certain prize.

*For more on the benefits of intrinsically motivated learning, explore BADM's CREATE Framework.

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