Boy with a Book

I have greatly enjoyed reflecting this week on the views expressed by educator Randal McChesney in his insightful article for Hearts at Play. In Edu-K courses and private sessions, parents often comment that they’d like to know how to better motivate their children to read and study on their own and otherwise apply themselves in school. In this regard I appreciate how, in the article, Randy weighs the shortcomings of using extrinsic rewards, such as money, to motivate young people, and points to research on intrinsic motivation that shows it to be the best way for children to learn. It’s also, he makes clear, the best way to encourage children to treat one other with respect, regard, and dignity.

In his essay, Randy encourages the development of intrinsic motivations—those behaviors that arise from within the individual, the fire that moves them to interact and to be at play with each new learning challenge before them. In the Edu-K work as in Education Through Music, we see how often movement itself, and especially moving playfully with others, invites intrinsic motivation and authentic learning.

I agree with Randy’s thoughts on how effective learners build their habits of sustained motivation. It’s my intent, when working with Edu-K learners, to help them discover how to initiate motivated behavior by making a personal choice to meet a goal. For a young child having difficulty with reading, this might mean choosing to bring a reading book home from school—even if just to look at the pictures. Intrinsic joy is experienced when the student takes each measured step toward such a realistic intention. The pleasure of learning comes as the child overcomes obstacles toward his goal; for example, when he looks up new vocabulary words as he reads, or asks for a parent’s help, instead of putting the book aside. Such efforts can be seen as the vigor and attentiveness that go into following through, as when he picks up the book again and again until reaching the very last page.

In Edu-K, as in Randy’s work, we celebrate new learning as its own reward. From the pleasure of getting it to the final attainment of got it!, seeing people access their intrinsic motivation for a task is thrilling to behold.


(To read an inspiring blog on how play can develop intrinsic motivation, see the guest blog with Randal McChesney.)

Getting it and got it! are part of the Learning Flow, from Brain Gym(R): Teacher’s Edition.

© 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.

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