Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Internal Motivation

I think every time I speak/write about the learner, I mention motivation at least once. As an ID, I take motivation very seriously. It is my responsibility to ensure that the learner's motivation is high as this will ensure that he/she actually learns. We do a detailed contextual inquiry to understand our learners. Then, we brainstorm for hours before we decide on the instructional strategy that we should use.

But regardless of the effort we put in, if the internal motivation is low, it is a tough situation. The learner should want to learn. I see this in my daily life whether it is working on a project, writing a blog, conducting research, working on a presentation... If the motivation is low, it shows. We may try to encourage them, push them, force them but none of this will work if their heart is not in it.

What influences internal motivation? Internal motivation is influenced by one's aspirations, goals, and needs. We have to understand these to ensure that their heart is in it. If we understand this, we may be able to show the learner the relevance and arouse their curiosity. But, if they still don't want to, they will not learn. That's scary... We can only ensure that we play all our cards right and hope that the learner is inspired enough. The onus is finally with the learner. I guess this goes back to the basic principle of adult learning: What is in it for me? We can show this relevance but it is for them to see it.

Please note that I am not trying to pass on the blame for courses that have not met their learning outcomes. I am only reflecting on the power of internal motivation.


Archana Narayan said...

(Geeta: I am so sorry. I was trying to delete my response and I ended up deleting your comment as well. Usability issue!! I managed to find it in my mail. Have posted it here.)

Well said Archie. Motivation is the critical factor that can make all the difference between 'reading' and 'learning'! As instructional designers, we need to understand the motivations of our learners. In fact, this is one of the key findings during learner analysis through contextual inquiry.

While it is easy to find out external motivations of learners (eg promotion, pay hike, rewards etc), it is quite challenging to identify the intrinsic motivations of learners.

Intrinsic motivations could be something as definite as altruistic personal goals, contribution to society, betterment of self, or it can be as abstract as self satisfaction, moral obligation etc. There is an interesting theory called Attribution Theory that explains the drivers of learner motivation.

Typically, intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic motivation or rewards. This makes our task all the more challenging. :) Therefore, we need to design our learner analysis protocols such that we can identify the intrinsic motivations of our learners.

Archana Narayan said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Geeta. Always a pleasure to hear your views.

While I think that if the learner does not want to learn, he/she wont. I also believe that understanding their internal motivations helps a lot. For example, you know that your learner thinks that he does not need a course on work etiquette because he thinks he already knows everything he needs to know about it. Keeping this in mind, we can design the course in such a way that it challenges the learner's current belief. The impact must be high. So that if a myth is broken, it will sink in and the learner will stop to think 'hey, is that really true?' Now, the learner's internal motivation is high.