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Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation in Young Children While Learning from Home.

In times of uncertainty, stress and change, it is essential that we prioritise wellbeing. It is crucial that we try our best to make sure children feel safe, secure and happy before we can be sure that effective learning will take place. Another challenge, parents and educators are facing is how to motivate students while learning from home. Children generally associate home with spending time with family, playing games, sleeping, eating, watching television or relaxing. They have suddenly been asked to think of home as a place where their formal education takes place too. This psychological leap is difficult to make and can be demotivating for children.

Motivation is a key component for learning. Motivation is described as a state that energizes, directs and sustains behaviour. It leads to more effort and persistence, which in turn leads to higher levels of interest and achievement. Educators and parents should be aware of some key strategies that will support their children’s motivation while learning from home. We all know about extrinsic motivation techniques used in homes and within schools (rewards, incentives, punishments). Although these can be effective at times, I would like to focus on nurturing intrinsic motivation, where their behaviour and actions come from internal drives rather than relying on external factors. Studies have shown that intrinsic motivation can lead to very positive outcomes, including creativity, academic performance and attitude towards learning. If we want our children to feel motivated from personal growth, the desire to reach their own potential, improve their level of skill or for the pure enjoyment and fulfillment from doing a task, there are ways educators and parents can support this.


Self Determination Theory refers to the idea that individuals can take control of their own life and take responsibility for their own behaviour. In schools, individuals would be given more autonomy to make choices and would be active participants in their own learning process. This can be achieved through intrinsic motivation and educators can foster this by supporting children’s psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.


The first component is the need for autonomy, which refers to the idea that people are in control over their own choices and that they have the power to make their own decisions. In contrast, a controlling environment would diminish a learners sense of power over their own actions and result in less engagement in their own learning. Our internal desires are in conflict with external pressures and we continuously strive to be in charge of our own behaviour and make our own choices. When learners are given the opportunity to make choices, they become more engaged with the learning process, internalise goals and believe the work is more important as they become more accountable for their decisions and actions.


Learning from Home tips that support autonomy:

  • Allow children to design / plan their own timetable or schedule

  • Giving choice in their creative output and process

  • Ask children for their ideas and solutions

  • Guide instead of tell

  • Value play as an important form of learning

  • Personalise instruction and content

The second component is competence. To be intrinsically motivated, it is important to feel competent when pursuing a task or area of study. The learner should feel as if they have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed, otherwise motivation to complete such tasks will diminish. In a report published by the Centre of Education Policy in 2012, researchers demonstrated that how students think about their own capabilities influenced how motivated they were.


Learning from Home tips that support competence:

  • Make sure work is within the zone of proximal development (not too easy, not too hard)

  • Make sure they understand what they need to do and what milestones they should reach.

  • Give constructive feedback, highlighting what was done well.

  • Allow time for self reflection

  • Emphasis on growth mindset and effort

  • Provide opportunities for children to discuss and collaborate with peers, even through video calls.

The third component is relatedness, which refers to a sense of belonging within a community and a connection with other people. In order for learners to feel a sense of relatedness, it is important for children to feel involved and part of the school community with regular opportunities to connect with their teacher, friends and family members.


Learning from Home tips that support relatedness:

  • Regular communication (group video calls)

  • Sharing or collaborative activities online

  • Educators should show interest in the child’s feelings, interests, hobbies and life at home

  • Online community events

  • Parent involvement in school life.

Parents can support their child’s intrinsic motivation by believing in their children’s abilities (competence), providing resources for their children to feel connected to others (relatedness) and by providing a stimulating environment at home and allowing them to problem-solve and follow through with their own initiatives (autonomy).

Student motivation must be considered when implementing policies or strategies to improve engagement, behaviour and general performance. Furthermore, in order to nurture intrinsic motivation in learners, educators and parents should relinquish any controlling techniques and aim to create an autonomy-supporting environment where learners are given the opportunity to make choices and take more responsibility for their learning.


Tim Maitland

Head of School, New Zealand School Jakarta


If you would like some guidance or resources for supporting your child’s learning at home, contact us at info@nzsj.sch.id or call us on +62 813 1196 3782 and we will set up a personal meeting with a member of our academic team.



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