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What Is the Incentive?

Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, educational researchers at the University of Rochester, maintain that humans are not motivated by the material consequences of their actions (reward vs. punishment) but by the correlated enjoyment and meaning of such actions. They sustain that humans have three basic needs:

1 .Need for competence

2. Need for autonomy

3. Need for personal connection

Only when these three needs are satisfied, intrinsic motivation continues to burn. When teachers create an environment that fosters competence, autonomy, and personal connection, students are more motivated to do hard work.

How do we help children develop these non-cognitive capabilities? Deci and Ryan suggest that students are more likely to exhibit positive academic habits such as perseverance, delayed gratification, and control of impulses when they are in an environment where they feel a sense of personal connection, autonomy, and competence.

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