What is the best way to explain to children the difference between internal and external motivation––in other words, the difference between DWS Levels C and D? I am having trouble with this.
Initially I use very concrete examples connected directly to the classroom.
I describe Level C as the level where students do the right thing––what’s expected of them by the teacher––because the teacher is clearly expecting them to do it.
Some simple examples:
- The student will pick up toys off the floor when they are asked.
- The student will walk quietly in the hallway when a teacher is supervising.
- The student will clean up a mess he/she has made when they know an adult is near enough to notice the situation.
The main point is this: At Level C, persons always need something outside of themselves to motivate them to act correctly.
Level C is okay––but but there is a higher level.
Level D, the highest level, has a different feel to it. Level D is even higher than Level C because the person has a different reason for doing what they do. He/She does the right thing because they want to do the right thing––because they choose to do the right thing.
As the school year progresses, I also start discussing the following concepts:
- On the outside, (if someone happened to be observing the situation,) Level D looks just like Level C. As an example, at Level C a person walks appropriately in the hallway and at Level D a person also walks appropriately in the hallway. The difference is not on the outside. The difference is on the inside of the person. At Level D, people don’t need anyone outside of themselves to make them walk appropriately or even influence them to walk appropriately. At Level D, people CHOOSE to walk appropriately in the hallway, simply because they know it’s the expected and reasonable thing to do. They don’t want to hurt anyone accidentally or disturb classroom proceedings, so they walk rather than run, and walk quietly rather than create unnecessary noise. Whether an observer is present or not, they choose to do the appropriate thing––they choose to walk quietly.
- Only people themselves can know if they are at Level C or Level D. How do they know? They feel it! Level C doesn’t feel particularly special inside. It’s just an ordinary feeling inside. In contrast, conscious awareness of Level D feels wonderful inside. It feels satisfying. When you choose to act on Level D, you feel proud of yourself. You feel capable. You feel a warmth in your heart, right inside of you. This feeling is telling you that you’re doing the right thing because you WANT to. You feel powerful because you are doing the right thing BY CHOICE!