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A few primers on the topic of motivation...

by Neville on Oct 25, 2012 at 03:38 PM}
The discussion thread that evolved out of the tweetchat about badges & motivation was particularly interesting to me. I thought I might share a few resources on the topic I think offer a good starting point for further learning & discussion.

I would love to hear your thoughts and see any other resources that you might recommend on the topic!

Wikipedia - Motivation

RSA -Dan Pink - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

TED - Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success



I especially enjoyed the second YouTube. It's obviously business-oriented, but it definitely has applications beyond business. It makes for an interesting look at motivation from a different perspective.

His examples at the beginning of the video were interesting, as well. Grades are kind of like offering money. Students exchange money for access to the course and are given grades at the end of the course. Extrinsic motivation. It was interesting to see the correlation between how well (or badly, in this case) people in the studies he mentioned did when told they could earn a very high amount of money, when the task required any kind of thinking or processing.

Did you see the RSA Animate of the same talk? It's Awesome! "Challenge and Mastery, and Making a Contribution" <-- Service Learning? Part of the backstory for a game in a course?

I find myself trying to draw parallels to how our educational system works. Very interesting!

Great finds, Neville, thank you!
Thanks, Leedale! That RSA Animate of Pink's talk was actually how I first became aware of him. :) Yes, in his talk he focuses on money and its relationship to behavior; and money is one of the more pervasive instruments we use in our society to influence behavior. But I think that underlying relationship dynamic between external reward & behavior remains even if people substitute money for some other reward, like grades or badges.

For me, de Botton's discussion of status and positive attention/positive regard as an even more fundamental form of external social reward points to the importance of taking into account the cultural environment/context that's present in the learning environment within which grades and badges are used. Whether we intend to use grades & badges as extrinsic motivators or as signifiers of relative status, I think it's important to consider that both we & our learners may have a strong tendency to respond to them or to understand & use them in these ways, especially when our broader societal culture would tend to do so, as de Botton touches upon in his consideration of meritocracy. So I think this presents the important challenge of figuring out what our fundamental values & goals are as educators, and whether & how these these tools can be used in a manner that is congruent with those values & goals.
I brought up what I thought was a brilliant use of badges, as the college is asking us to challenge students for more than grades. I ran it by some of my students on the break, and they were my over-achieving students, I suggested that I might have say 7 badges they could earn (no points no grade) that would fill slots on a certificate stating they had achieved these badges for additional work, like on Anthropology Theory, or doing kingship research five levels deep. That I would ask them to give me an avatar name and I could put the chart on the wall so they could see where they stood on it. Went down in flames. No points why do it. So still trying to figure out how to push students into extra work for the glory of it alone. Any suggestions?
I think there are probably many different directions you could try approaching this from in trying to figure it out. Thinking out loud, the first thing that comes to mind for me is that I want to know more about the students & their circumstances.

Are they required to be there or did they chose to be there in the learning environment (in the school and in that particular class)? If they chose to be in the environment, then what was important about that particular environment to them, e.g. a particular goal in mind, a particular interest? Why are they pursuing an education; what are their values & goals? What are they trying to get out of the experience for themselves? I'd expect that while there are likely to be some general high level trends & similarities, e.g. "I'm pursuing a degree to better my job & career prospects", each learner will have her/his particular specific motivations that are important and tie into who she/he is as an individual. Then I would ask myself, would these additional activities actually be enriching and allow them to further pursue these goals that are personally important to them? And how can I communicate or make a clear case for this so that they see the value as well?

So basically, I think one approach might be to first getting to know & understand the learner's personal motivations and then offering experiences that will speak to those motivations and be personally relevant. In approaching it this way, hopefully the motivation is engaged and the badges then become a secondary outcome of the effort, i.e. a personal & social recognition, as well as a memento, of this personally relevant accomplishment, which would be the primary or more significant outcome. I think this approach contrasts with attempting to use badges as a motivational enticement in and of themselves.

I think even in environments, like Rivenhomewood pointed out earlier, where the culture is "no points, so why do it?" or "no grade, so why do it?", I could still start with, "so why are the points or grades important to you? why are you making the effort to pursue those?" And even in cases where the learner is really focused on the goal of pursuing better job & career prospects, then can I offer opportunities for learning experiences and skill development that will be relevant to them in these pursuits, and can I communicate effectively and help them to also make this connection? For example, could some of these extra activities give them opportunities to develop additional knowledge & skills that they could then take with them into their working lives? Are any of these efforts or activities potentially things that they can put on their CVs or resumes to distinguish themselves and that will support them in their efforts to seek better job & career prospects and to better their lives?

Again, these are just a few initial thoughts. I would love to hear what others think.
I have a kind of thought experiment that has been successful with some kids.

Imagine that you have just come top of the class in an exam. You feel good about it.

If your class were joined with those from half a dozen neighbouring colleges, and you performed the same as before, would you still be top? Possibly not. You might be second, or sixth, or below every other student from some elite academy.

How would you feel if, despite all, come top of the combined class? Better?

What if you were compared with your entire State? What about the nation? The world? Higher levels of happiness are dependent on less and less realistic outcomes.

Ultimately, success is relative. Valuing yourself for that success is in fact related to the failure of others to attain the score you did.

This is a very shaky basis for self-esteem.

The alternative? Alain de Botton says it much more eloquently, but we should set our own goals for self-improvement and do what we can to achieve them.

The job of the teacher? To be "exploited" in helping their students toward those goals.

Daniel Pink speaks of AMP: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose as the true motivators.

I've long loved this version of Daniel Pink's talk. The illustrations add an element of fun that keeps me interested (What's going to happen next?), helps me remember the concepts, and makes me smile.
Grasshopper, I'm afraid the whole culture of school is working against you here. The way we do school most places is all about "no points, so why do it." If you were at a Montessori or Waldorf school, you might find things working very differently.
It's sad, but the harsh truth of the matter is that a lot of people (including me) don't go to school for the fun of it. We go because we either feel like we have to in order to get anywhere in life, or we have to because we are (or were) legally compelled to do so. In my case, it's also the only thing keeping me afloat financially right now.

A big hurdle in cases like this is that you're not dealing with the K-12 crowd. You're often dealing with some very bitter, cynical adults who really just want their ticket punched because they feel that doing any work for no numerical reward (whether it be grades or money) just isn't worth their time.

That's why I think this whole "games in learning" thing is so important. If my school experience is any indication, the whole institution needs an overhaul. Reading about the Civil War over and over again for three or four years does not constitute effectively learning history. Reading about the Holocaust for four years does not constitute effectively learning English. And yet, that's what I remember about high school. These events, while important, do not in any way reflect the broad scope of what we should be learning. My mother is constantly flabbergasted by what I never learned about history in school.

Anyway, my point is that we've got a lot of challenges ahead, but we need to continually press for innovation, because the status quo clearly is not working.
Happened across this interesting SlideShare presentation about badges. One of the related topics it touches upon is this one of influence of badges on motivation:

~ Neville
Beware the moral pitfall... ;D

~ Neville
A great talk I was reminded of today... a lot more in here than you might initially expect.

And another closely related talk by Sebastian Deterding, also excellent... an audio recording & accompanying slideshare presentation this time.

I think in both talks he touches upon this very significant distinction between play & manipulation and what this distinction means when we go about designing a game & the resulting play experience of the gamer/learner:

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