1. Meaning of motivation
  2. Types of motivation
  3. Intrinsic motivation
  4. Extrinsic motivation
  5. How to apply motivation
  6. Importance/advantages of motivation
  7. Disadvantages of motivation
  8. Meaning of reinforcement
  9. Types of reinforcement
  10. Strategies for using positive reinforcement
  11. Uses of reinforcement
  12. Kinds of reinforcement stimuli
  13. Schedules of reinforcemen




The term motivation as derived from a Latin verb “motere” which means to move. Simply put, it is the force that initiates, sustain and directs ones activity. It is influenced by factors such as ones’ need, values, interest, attitude, aspiration and incentives.

Motivation also refers to the internal processes that energize, directs sustain behaviour. It refers to the factors which move or activate the organism. We infer the presence of motivation when we see that people work toward certain goals. For example, we might observe that a student works hard at almost every task that comes to him/her; from this we infer that the person has motive to achieve.



While there are many things that motivate people, you can break down motivation into two broad types – intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation represents all the internal motivational drivers like self-actualization or helping a friend in need. Extrinsic motivation represents all the external motivational drivers like doing something for a raise or reward.


Intrinsic motivation represents all the things that motivate you based on internal rewards. For example, you may be motivated to get a promotion because of self-improvement or the joy of learning. Conversely, you might be motivated to succeed because you want to positively affect the lives of the people around you.

However, while the above examples are positive, intrinsic motivation can also have negative motivational drivers. For example, you can motivate yourself to learn new things because otherwise you’ll feel unfulfilled. The outcome of your actions is positive, but the specific type of motivation you used was focused on stopping a negative outcome rather than creating a positive outcome. For this reason and more, there are often many different types of intrinsic motivation, which all focus on a specific motivational reward or driver.

Regardless of positive or negative, intrinsic motivation is typically more sustainable than extrinsic motivation because it focuses on things you can control. Conversely, extrinsic motivation typically focuses on things that are given to you by someone else, and therefore is not directly within your control to achieve.


Extrinsic motivation represents all the things that motivate you based on external rewards. These types of motivation are more common than intrinsic motivators and include achieving things due to a specific incentive, fear, or expectation, all of which depend on external factors. For example, people want to get a promotion because of the expected raise.

Like intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation can sometimes be negative. For example, you can be motivated externally to perform better at your job with the fear of being fired. This shows that extrinsic motivation, like intrinsic motivation, has many different motivational types that explain a specific external motivational driver and how effective it is at motivation yourself as well as others.

As you can see, motivation is more complex than simply defining it by its internal or external drivers. Each broad type of motivation has many sub-types of its own, focusing on a specific factor that can motivate yourself and others. For this reason, it’s important to understand each type of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation so you know the various drivers that motivate people to achieve their goals.

How to apply motivation in class (strategies)

  1. Generally use a variety of motivation techniques. Use praises rewards, approvals and words of encouragement.
  2. Get students involved in activities. Make the learning activities exciting and interesting by using appropriate and suitable teaching and learning resources and equipment.
  3. Provoke or arouse pupil’s curiosity before teaching.
  4. Arouse pupil’s attention by starting a lesson with something new or different. Introduce occasionally activities such as games, drills and competitions among learners to arouse their interest in the lesson.
  5. Use varying motivation methods.
  6. Encourage group competition as well as self-competition. Give learners the opportunities to take active part in teaching and learning processes inviting questions, their suggestions and contributions.
  7. Children should be encouraged to aspire high by working on challenging problems. Set achievable goals and standards that will not discourage students.

Importance (advantages) of motivation

  1. Motivation encourages pupils to think and be creative in the learning process. This happens when the teacher provides feedback to pupils when their exercises, quizzes and projects are marked. Pupils use the feedback to improve upon their performance.
  2. Again, it enhances punctuality.
  3. Motivation kindles pupils/student’s interest in the learning situation pupils are stimulated to learn when they are rewarded.
  4. Motivation sustain pupils’ /student’s willingness to learn. They do not easily get bored or destructed
  5. Pupils/ students whole–heartedly partake in classroom activities because of the motivation they receive.

Disadvantages or dangers in motivation

 Completion created as a result of external motivation may give rise to examination mal-practices, fear, envy and the like.

  1. Learning also become artificial as people learn in order to be rewarded.
  2. It creates disappointment to those who do not gain any award.



Reinforcement plays a central role in the learning process. According to the law of effect, reinforcement can be defined as anything that both increases the strength of the response and tends to induce repetitions of the behaviour that preceded the reinforcement. Reinforcement is defined functionally also: Something is reinforcing only if it strengthens the response preceding it and induces repetitions of the response.


Reinforcement is an external explanation of behaviour as compared to motivation which is internal explanation of behaviour (being concerned with inner needs).

Though, the terms reinforcement and rewards are sometimes used interchangeably, still there is technical difference in these terms. A reward is simply something that the person who presents it deems to be desirable, it may not always be reinforcing.



Types of Reinforcement:

 Positive Reinforcement:

A positive reinforcement is a reward for a desired behaviour. The reward should be such which stimulates desired behaviour and strengthens the probability of repeating such behaviour in future. Positive reinforces can be primary or secondary. Those reinforcements which have direct beneficial consequences are known as primary reinforcements e.g. food, clothing and shelter.

Secondary reinforces also bring benefits but have different meanings for different individuals. Money is the most powerful positive reinforcement because it can be used to purchase primary reinforcers like food etc. Some other secondary reinforcers can be participation in decision making, promotion, recognition and praise.



There are a few conditions for the positive reinforcement to be effective.

 (i) The reward should be matched with the needs of the pupils because all individuals have different motivations for performance. Teachers must either develop a reward system that is appropriate for all pupils in the class or tailor their awards to suit each individual. For example, for one student money would be an enforcer, while for another praise for his performance would be a more effective enforcer.

(ii) The reward must be contingent upon the type of performance. So that “The greater the degree of performance of the pupil, the greater should be reward.” Or in other words, the reward must be directly linked with behaviour.

(iii) The timing of the reward is also very important. This is known as the principle of immediate reinforcement. The reinforcement will have a more profound effect, if it is administered soon after the desired behaviour has occurred. The longer the delay in giving the reward for the desired behaviour the less effective such a reward will be as a


  1. Negative Reinforcement:

Negative reinforcement is also known as ‘Avoidance learning’ or ‘Escape conditioning.’

As is clear from these names, negative reinforcement takes place when individuals learn to avoid or escape from unpleasant circumstances. Thus, negative reinforcement strengthens and increases behaviour by the termination or withdrawal of an undesirable consequence.

Just like positive reinforcement, it is also a method of strengthening desired behaviour.

But under positive reinforcement, the pupils learn hard to get praise and other awards, whereas under negative reinforcement, pupils work hard to avoid or escape from unpleasant consequences like reprimand from the teacher.

For example, the teacher may like his/her pupils to come to school with some teaching and learning materials and may criticize individuals who don’t bring them. To avoid criticism, the pupils may bring them to keep the teacher happy. Thus, they are engaging in desirable behaviour to avoid an unpleasant consequence.


Much lawful behaviour in our society is based on avoidance learning. For example, we park our vehicle at the right parking space even if it is inconvenient, in order to avoid getting a ticket. Thus, negative reinforcement is really a form of social blackmail because the person will behave in a certain way in order not to be reprimanded.

However, punishment or threat of punishment is not implied in any of these actions. In work places, training, safety, warnings, orientation sessions and counselling help employees against negative consequences of undesirable behaviour. When coupled with positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviour, the effect can be extremely beneficial.


Note that punishment is not the same as negative reinforcement.



  1. It is used to shape behaviour and students can be helped to adjust through reinforcement.
  2. It can be used to help students give up bad habits and behaviours.
  3. Reinforcement is used to promote learning.
  4. Again, it is used in classroom management.


Kinds of reinforcement stimuli

 Reinforcement stimuli is anything that is used to increase the probability of behaviour re-occurring.

  1. Material reinforcer. These are actual objects like food, prizes; not a good idea though to use in educational setting.
  2. Social reinforcer. This is a gesture, usually from one person to another that communicates positive reward. Example praise and appreciation.
  3. Activity reinforce. This is an opportunity to engage in favourite activity. For example, students can’t join in a party or watch movie unless they have effectively accomplished certain task.
  4. Intrinsic reinforcers. Here an individual engages in certain response because it gives internal good feelings. For example, they feel proud because they have successfully completed an assignment and are relieved after finishing a difficult project successfully.


Schedules of reinforcement

A schedule of reinforcement determines when and how often reinforcement of a behaviour is given.  Schedules of reinforcement play an important role in the learning process of operant conditioning since the speed and strength of the response can be significantly impacted by when and how often a behaviour is reinforced (Van Wagner, 2010b).

Two types of reinforcement schedules are:  1. Continuous reinforcement and 2. Intermittent reinforcement.

Continuous reinforcement is when a desired behaviour is reinforced each and every time it is displayed.  This type of reinforcement schedule should be “used during the initial stages of learning in order to create a strong association between the behaviour and the response” (Van Wagner, 2010b). Continuous reinforcement will not generate enduring changes in behaviour, once the rewards are withdrawn, the desired behaviour will become extinct.

Intermittent reinforcement is when a desired behaviour is reinforced only occasionally when it is displayed.  In this type of reinforcement schedule behaviours are obtained more gradually, however the behaviours are more enduring (defying extinction).  Intermittent schedules are based either on time (interval schedules) or frequency (ratio schedules) (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).  Ratio reinforcement is the reinforcement of a desired behaviour after a number of occurrences, while interval reinforcement is the reinforcement of a desired behaviour after a period of time.  Consequently, four types of intermittent reinforcement schedules exist:  these are; fixed interval schedules, variable interval schedules, fixed ratio schedules and variable ratio schedules.  

Fixed Interval Schedules: A reinforcement of appropriate behaviour that is delivered after a specified interval of time has elapsed (Smith, 2010). The reinforcement is delivered, only after a specified amount of time has passed do we find that this reinforcement type of schedule tends to produce a scalloping effect between intervals as displayed in the figure example below (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).


Only directly before the interval time has elapsed is the desired behaviour displayed so as to look good when the performance review comes around (Heffner, 2001). After the review, a dramatic drop-off of behaviour immediately after reinforcement occurs (Huitt & Hummel, 1997). The fixed interval schedule is a form of continuous schedule and works well for punishment or learning a new behaviour (Heffner, 2001).

Variable Interval Schedules: This is a reinforcement of appropriate behaviour that is delivered after an average interval of time has elapsed (Smith, 2010). Once the behaviour has been reinforced, a new interval of time, either shorter or longer, is specified with the sum total of interval times equalling the average (Huitt & Hummel, 1997). This is best expressed in the example of a corporate random drug testing policy. The power of variable reinforcement lies in the fact that individuals do not know exactly when it is coming. The policy may dictate that a random drug screening will be conducted every 3 months or so, however because it is random the screening may happen sooner at 2 months or later at 4 months, with the average interval time equalling around 3 months. Because of the variable nature of this schedule the scalloping effect between intervals is reduced (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).


As shown in the figure above the variable interval schedule tends to consistently produce more appropriate behaviours (Heffner, 2001).  This schedule of reinforcement is best used when fading out a fixed interval schedule or reinforcing already established behaviours (Smith, 2010).

Fixed Ratio Schedules: A reinforcement of a desired behaviour occurs only after a specified number of actions have been performed (ex: Factory employees who are paid on piecework or a fixed “piece rate” for every piece produced or performance-related pay).  Because the fixed ratio schedule is methodical, it produces a high, steady rate of response.  The fixed ratio schedule is also a form of continuous schedule and works well for punishment or learning a new behaviour (Heffner, 2001 (Huitt & Hummel, 1997)

Variable Ratio Schedules:  A reinforcement of a desired behaviour occurs after a variable number of actions have been performed (ex: Employees who contribute to a lottery pot, a various number of tickets will win a various amount of money, which is put back into the pot for the next week).  The number of behaviours required to obtain the reward changes. The variable rate schedules tend to be more effective than fixed ratio schedules, because they generate a higher rate of response and resist extinction (Redmond, 2010). (Huitt & Hummel, 1997)


Woods, Woods, & Boyd, 2005)

Difference between Motivation and Reinforcement

The distinction between motivation and reinforcement is that, motivation encourages an individual to partake in an activity or to do something while reinforcement encourages an individual to do something that has already been done, for example when training a dog you would give it a treat every time it sat when you told it to, in order to reinforce the good behaviour.












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