Autonomous Motivation

Importantly, Self-Directed Education works through Autonomous motivation (motivation that comes from the desires inside of us) rather than through Controlled motivation (persuasion, manipulation, rewards, threats and punishments from outside). 

Researchers have found that Autonomous motivation is sustainable – it keeps us going when things get tough. In contrast, Controlled motivation often sees learning lost and behaviour dropped when circumstances change, and even worse, it can damage passion and interest that could have otherwise thrived. This is why conventional schooling often sees students develop an aversion to learning activities – most often but not only to maths and reading. SDE does not see these same aversions develop.

We’ve never taught reading… There’s never been a kid in our school – ever – who hasn’t learned how to read, eventually, in their own good time. And we’ve never had a case of dyslexia….There’s no pre-selection of non-dyslexic people in this place. We haven’t had dyslexia because we haven’t brought it about.

Daniel Greenberg, Sudbury Valley School

You can’t make someone learn something – you really can’t teach someone something – they have to want to learn it. And if they want to learn, they will.

Daniel Greenberg

Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.

Katrina Gutleben

Research studies have shown repeatedly that adults who have a great deal of freedom as to how and when to do their work commonly experience that work as play, even –in fact, especially– when the work is difficult. In contrast, people who must follow others’ directions, with little creative input of their own, rarely experience their work as play. Moreover, dozens of research studies have shown that when people choose to perform some task, they perform it more fully and effectively than when they feel compelled by others to perform it.

Dr. Peter Gray

…children are naturally motivated to play not just at the skills that are most prominent and valued among adults around them, but also, even more intensely, at new skills that lie at the culture’s cutting edge.  Because of this, children typically learn to use new technology faster than do their parents.

Dr. Peter Gray