Learning Continuum: Motivation

MotivationOur last post introduced readers to the idea of a learning independence continuum and the importance of strategically building each element upon the previous one. The first element in the learning continuum is motivation. Motivation can be described as an emotional or psychological state that is indicated by interest, curiosity, and/or the desire to understand. Learners demonstrate motivation by a desire to participate and be successful in the learning process.

Motivation can occur intrinsically (from within) or extrinsically (from external sources). Most everyone can think of at least one student they have encountered who is extremely motivated – they work hard, have a drive to succeed, and receive good marks as a result. However, they have no interest in what they are doing beyond receiving a high grade. This is a student who is motivated extrinsically.

Intrinsic sources have been shown to be more successful in the long-run in motivating students. They also aid in retention and understanding of content. Therefore, intrinsic motivation is the type educators should strive to stimulate and sustain in students. Sources of motivation were recently discussed and brought to the forefront of public discussion in the New York Times’ Bestseller, Drive by Daniel Pink. In the book, Pink demonstrates that even as an adult, intrinsic factors such as mastery, purpose and autonomy make us much more likely to extend effort and persist than extrinsic rewards such as compensation.

The best way to stimulate intrinsic motivation is to design learning activities that are interesting, valuable and purposeful to students.

How do you do that?

First, you must know your learner. A learner profile may help develop this understanding. Tapping intrinsic motivating factors requires insight from the perspective of the learner.

Providing feedback on short-term goals and providing autonomy and learner choice are also strategies that have been shown to be successful in motivating students intrinsically.

Our next post will show how intrinsically motivated students will move along the continuum and become engaged students once they put that motivation into action.


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