Intrinsic Motivation: what does it mean to be motivated in a space and why are learners motivated to learn?

A key goal in any educational setting (online, in class, wherever!) is to support the learner in finding what intrinsically motivates them to learn. Educators are not drill sergeants forcing information into the brain of the learner, but in a John Dewey-inspired way are cast as support systems who create conduits of learning to help learners realize their potential. But this process must be self-reflective and include a step that helps learners to discover their own personal motivation that inspires them.

So what does it mean to be motivated in a space and why are learners motivated to learn?

To begin to answer this question I researched Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of Flow, which defines the perfect state in which a person is at his/her personal best. The theory takes into account the motivation behind reaching this state and the feelings associate with it. For reference, the main characteristics of the state of flow are:

  • The quality of the experience is rich and diverse
  • There is a clear purpose for the experience (including specific goals, of which the learner is aware)
  • There is a balance between the individual’s level of skill and the challenge posed by the activity
  • The individual has a positive state of mind

Intrinsic motivation comes from a sense of curiosity about an object or topic that creates interest, which with sustained engagement creates opportunities for learning (Csikszentmihalyi, in Intrinsic Motivation in Museums: why does one want to learn?, 1999).  A study about motivation in learners by Dweck & Leggett further substantiates this idea by stating that when a person is intrinsically motivated, they actually pursue learning goals.

Although, much like what I discussed in my previous post, Falk and Dierking argue that the link between the content (the topic, the object, the information presented along with either and the curation of both) and the learner’s personal experience must be explicit for substantive learning to occur.

Technology, therefore, must be the bridge between the topic/objects and the learner that makes the connections explicit and allow room for personalized learning.

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  1. Go with the ‘Flow’ – Games for learning and fun! | mobilelearningadvocate

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