“My students won’t do anything unless I make them do it!”

“If we are going to get kids to stop running in the hallway we need to increase the punishment. We need to get their attention!”

“Ok, children, whenever I ask for quiet I am going to be looking to see which group gets quiet first. I will then put a check by that group’s name on the board. When that group reaches 10 checks they will get a special prize.”


As teachers and parents (and everybody else for that matter) it is all too easy, even when we know its weaknesses and dangers, to revert to extrinsic (external) motivators. Choice theory explains that students (and everybody else for that matter) always behave for intrinsic (internal) reasons. External factors influence us, to be sure, but ultimately we make choices for reasons that are important to us personally. A student may rush to get quiet in the hope of getting a check by her group’s name. Other students may care less about the special prize for getting quiet. This is the great dichotomy that teachers face every day. Most teachers know about the value of intrinsic motivation, but consistently implementing this kind of an approach can feel elusive. As Glasser pointed out many times, we live in an external control world where extrinsic motivators have become the norm. Choice theory teachers are committed to swimming against this current, though. One such teacher came up with a series of suggestions that will help us as teachers tap into and honor the internal control design of our students.

Today’s blog post is a wonderful infographic by Mia MacMeekin at teach thought.com. Read her 27 ideas on increasing intrinsic motivation in order from 1 – 27.