Intrinsic/Extrinsic motivation and Hierarchy of Needs

MOTIVATION: Something that energizes, direct, and sustains behaviors.

INTRINSIC MOTIVATION: Internal desires to perform a particular task, people do

            Certain activities because it gives them pleasure, develops a particular skill, or

            Itís morally the right thing to do.

EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION: Factors external to the individual and unrelated to the

            Task they are performing.  Examples include money, good grades, and other


        Intrinsically motivated students are bound to do much better in classroom activities, because they are willing and eager to learn new material.  Their learning experience is more meaningful, and they go deeper into the subject to fully understand it.  On the other hand, extrinsically motivated students may have to be bribed to perform the same tasks.

        How can we motivate students intrinsically?

  A theorists by the name of Abraham Maslow, has concluded that before we can be intrinsically motivated we must first satisfy some more basic human needs.  According to Maslow there are five basic levels of human needs.

1.      Physiological needs.  We are motivated to satisfy needs that ensure our physical survival.  Needs in this group include food, water, air, shelter, clothing and sex.  Most people have satisfied their physiological needs allowing them to concentrate on higher level needs.  For some though, physiological needs are dominant and are the biggest needs in their lives. 

2.      Safety needs.  Once physiological needs are met one can concentrate on bringing safety and security to our lives.  Safety and security needs include, order, stability, routine, familiarity, control over oneís life and environment, certainty and health. 

3.      Social needs or love and belonging needs.  These needs include love, affection, belonging and acceptance.  People look for these needs in relationships with other people and are motivated for these needs by the love from their families.

4.      Esteem needs.  All people have a need for stable, firmly based, usually high evaluation of themselves for self-respect or self-esteem and for the esteem of others.  These needs may therefore be classified into two subsidiary sets.  These are, first, the desire for strength, achievement, adequacy, mastery of competence, confidence, independence and freedom.  Second, we have what we call the desire for reputation or prestige (defining it as respect from other people), status, fame, glory, dominance, importance, recognition, dignity or appreciation. 

5.      Need for self-actualization.  This level of hierarchy is concentrated on an individual being able to reach their full potential a human being.  Once someone has satisfied the first four levels of needs then they have the ability to concentrate on functioning to their highest potential.  But even if all these needs are satisfied, we may often still expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what they are fitted for.  Musicians must play music, artists must paint if they are to be at peace with themselves.  What humans can be, they must be.  They must be true to their own nature.

The first four needs are what we call deficiency needs, because they come from things we are lacking. These needs can be met only by external sources, by the environment, people or things going on around us. 

Self-actualization is a growth need.  This doesnít just address what we are lacking in our lives, but it gives us room to grow and develop as an individual. This need is always intrinsically motivated, because we do it out of pure enjoyment and desire to grow.

Maslow, does explain that self-actualization is rarely achieved, even as adults.  But we as teachers, must make sure our students have satisfied their deficiency needs in order to move on to their growth one.  Intrinsic motivation will not occur until they are well fed, safe in their environment, and can love and respect the teachers and their classmates.  From there on motivation will be a breeze.