Good Feedback and Intrinsic Motivation Is The Key To Improvement


Written by Victoria (Teach Starter)

How many times have you said, “Great job!” to your students? Do they actually know what “Great job!” means? What type of feedback do you give to your students? Do you only use external motivators or have you aimed to help nurture and develop your students’ intrinsic motivation? 

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Feedback and rewards

Providing your students with feedback on their performance, whether that be academic or behavioural, is an important part of being a teacher. Feedback allows your students to grow, learn and mature.

Commonly, feedback used in classrooms relies on external motivators, such as reward systems and praise. While external rewards do provide short term benefits and immediate results, studies have shown that this is outweighed by the longer term effects, such as a child being less likely to do the specific task unless they are given a reward.

When we think about how we would like our children to develop, traits such as ‘resilience’ , ‘independence’ and ‘self-motivation’ often arise. Offering rewards runs counter to this aim, instead fostering dependence and a lack of motivation if a reward is not offered.

When providing feedback with the goal of improving student learning and performance, the feedback needs to be timely, specific and constructive.

Students will be more open to receiving individual feedback if it is personal and given by someone they trust. You can build trust with your students by checking in and interacting with them throughout their learning. When you can, provide conferencing opportunities. This will ensure that an appropriate level of interaction has been established between yourself and the student, so that achievements can be celebrated and areas for improvement are identified.

Giving immediate positive feedback should be specific and appropriately timed. When you can, link the feedback to set learning and behaviour goals . This will make the feedback more meaningful and helpful for the students, as well as encourage motivation.

When it comes to behavioural feedback, using an i-message is an effective way to deliver feedback without judgement. An i-message consists of three parts (in any order):

  1. A brief, non-blameful description of the BEHAVIOUR (a behaviour is something you see or hear) you find unacceptable.
  2. Your FEELINGS.
  3. The tangible and concrete EFFECT of the behaviours on you.

Here’s an example:

  1. Behaviour: Throwing books on floor.
  2. Feelings: Concern.
  3. Effect: The books might hit and hurt another student. The books might also get damaged.

“When you throw your books on the floor, I feel concerned that they might hit another student.”

Delivering an i-message provides the recipient with specific information. This is far more constructive than a simple, ‘I’m disappointed in you’ or ‘your behaviour is unacceptable’.

Encouraging intrinsic motivation

It is increasingly important to focus on helping your students to develop an internal drive to succeed, without the reliance on external motivators.

Intrinsic motivation promotes creativity, self-direction, higher levels of effort and optimal achievement. It also drives performance and encourages students to find joy and excitement in their own learning.

Intrinsic motivation can be fostered in the classroom when there is:

Students will develop intrinsic motivation and strive to achieve their personal best when:

  • a high expectation from the teacher is set
  • they are given challenging tasks
  • the content has real life relevance
  • the students can connect to the content
  • the content is delivered in an interesting way
  • set goals are achievable and accomplished
  • they have a sense of ownership and accountability for their learning
  • they see their teacher actively involved.

When intrinsically motivated, students will take part in a learning experience for:

  • enjoyment
  • the challenge
  • interest
  • natural fulfillment through curiosity.

Providing Class Feedback

Whole class feedback is just as important as individual student feedback. It is most likely that you have established specific whole class learning or behaviour goals with your students. These goals should be referred to frequently throughout the learning experience. As the goals are referred to, whole class achievements should be celebrated and a reminder of how to complete the goal should be reinforced.

Just like individual student feedback and intrinsic motivation, whole class feedback needs to be meaningful for all students. As a teacher, you also need to display a positive and enthusiastic attitude when delivering feedback and show passion for helping your class work towards achieving their set goals.

To motivate students, a whole class reward could be established for when particular class goals have been achieved. Instead of dictating the reward, why not encourage your class to brainstorm ideas and then decide on a reward system together? Empower your students to take ownership of their own performance and behaviour. Complete the feedback loop by deciding together as a class whether or not they have achieved their goals. This helps to foster independence and teamwork, as well as a sense of personal pride in their achievement, reinforcing the goal of developing intrinsic motivation.

Tracking of whole class achievements can be established through the use of whole class reward charts and posters.

Providing Parents With Feedback

Parents are always wanting to know how their children are performing at school. It should become habit as a teacher for you to build a rapport with your students’ parents and provide them with positive feedback about their children’s progress in class. Positive feedback to parents can be as simple as sending home a note about a small personal academic or behavioural achievement or arranging a meeting to discuss how they can assist at home with achieving individual goals.

During parent/teacher interviews, follow the same structure of individual student feedback. Begin with a positive comment about their child’s academic or behaviour improvements, followed by constructive feedback about what their child is working towards. Finish with a positive comment about their overall achievements.

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Comments & feedback

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With such a strong focus on student well-being this year, I feel that using a variety of feedback strategies is essential. A great read thankyou.

Jane Hartley · May 16th, 2016

Thank you Jane for your positive comment.
Good luck with using a range of feedback strategies in your classroom!
Kind regards,

Victoria (Teach Starter) · May 16th, 2016

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