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Student Development

Motivation & Reward – The Secret to Enhancing Student Performance!

What motivates you to finish a task at hand? For working professionals, there are deadlines to meet and targets to achieve. Rewards fuel them to persevere and achieve new goals. For students, it’s the need to score well, and their reward would be to get into the profession they aspire for. This, however, is a long-term goal with a distant reward. Science says that even the smallest of tasks need motivation. So, for students to perform better at school, they need motivation too.

Motivation is defined by psychologists as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. It is derived from the Latin word movere which means ‘to cause movement.’ 

Mechanism and Effects of Motivation and Rewards

wooden man climbing up stairs

Before we understand how motivation affects our work, it is important to know how it works. When we become conscious of our unsatisfied needs, there is an urge to work towards fulfilling them. This leads to behaviour that will most possibly lead to goal achievement. The chances of repeating a particular behaviour are greater when the outcome is favourable.

What effects do motivation and rewards have on students’ academic performance? Let’s begin by understanding how motivation can be cultivated in learners and how rewards help them do better.

The Expert Opinion

kid dressed up as a rocket

Education experts point out that repeated failures create disinterest in the learner towards the task or exam at hand. Instead, they insist on setting smaller and achievable goals with regular rewards. Kids then feel encouraged to work harder. However, it is imperative that hard work is not always driven by the promise of reward.

This is important because it has been observed that motivations which are independent of rewards last longer than the ones that are rewarded.  Both reward-driven and intrinsic motivation have certain advantages. Students who don’t take academics very seriously become high-risk takers when motivated, while those who put in a lot of hard work tend to have higher self-esteem. 

Reinforce the ‘Good’

b f skinner

Any write-up on motivation is incomplete without a reference to the behavioural psychologist, B.F. Skinner’s Theory of Operant Conditioning. It is one of the seminal theories that explains the psychology of reinforcement. It says that rewards increase the chances of repeating a particular type of behaviour, while any behaviour met with punishment is less likely to be repeated. 

Instil Self-Motivation

kick the impossible

Now that we know the effects of motivation and rewards on student performance, let’s find out how intrinsic motivation or self-motivation as it is popularly called can be developed. 

Firstly, it is important to identify the purpose that drives a student to take up something. The purpose must be strong enough to drive a student to do something. 

This must be followed by developing mastery in a subject or a task to give the student the much-needed confidence. 

With confidence comes independence, which allows students to give their best shot without doubting themselves. 

Motivation and rewards at the right time can help students create wonders with their performances. Just remember to use these from time to time and help students achieve the goals which they think are unachievable.

Kruti Beesam

Kruti enjoys blogging and listening to music. She actively tries to sensitise people towards disabilities and create awareness about the need for wheelchair friendly infrastructure. Being a foodie, Kruti looks forward to meeting new people and sharing a good meal with them.


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