So why does motivation seem to be so elusive to some and others have MOJO to burn? Is someone wielding a big stick to get those with the MOJO to burn, to complete tasks? Actually, being pressured to complete a task will get a person motivated, to a point, but the desired outcome may not be exactly what the stick wielder was after. This form of negative extrinsic motivation can be found throughout schooling, training and work environments. Just because it is used frequently, is it the most productive way to motivate a learner or employee? I'm sure you know the answer to that one - NO. So why is it implemented so frequently and in so many different situations and environments?
Let's look at two forms of motivation -intrinsic and extrinsic. Definitions for these two types of motivation abound across the internet (286,000 from a Google search). Basically, intrinsic motivation is when you decide to do or achieve an outcome. Extrinsic motivation on the other hand is when someone else decides that you will achieve an outcome. From my Six Degrees of Contemplation™ teaching practices, motivation is the only element which weaves its way through and supports the other five elements. Intrinsic motivation involves an individual challenging themself to complete a task and setting goals to achieve the desired outcome e.g. to become the Guinness Book of Records hotdog eating champion will require daily training by consuming a given number of hotdogs. Whereas, extrinsic motivation relies on a system of reward or punishment e.g. completing a set of tasks in the workplace to a predetermined level will be rewarded with a bonus or reprimand maybe even dismissal if unable to complete tasks successfully.
Using Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation To Get The Job Done
Okay the extrinsic carrot strategy won't motivate your learners, unless they are desperate vegetarians, but you can transform the carrot (positive extrinsic motivation) into a tangible, negotiable outcome. I have found this strategy to be highly successful when teaching post secondary learners. At all times, more than 90% of the learners in my class had to attend class to continue receiving welfare payments. Now that is not intrinsic motivation, but the big stick wielder wanted some outcomes. It didn't matter who was in the class the contract stated that each learner must attain two learning outcomes within a given time frame. Under pressure! What to do in these circumstances?
To successfully transform an extrinsic motivational strategy to an intrinsic motivational strategy, I found the following elements were integral to the process:
- the learner must feel they have ownership of the work they are undertaking;
- develop or source appropriate learning materials that reflect the negotiated outcome;
- delivery of learning material takes into account the learner's learning style;
- and, learners need to feel there is an equitable relationship with the teacher.
I have covered learner ownership and learning styles in depth in other blogs (see below), so I'll give you the "Readers' Digest" version.
1. Involve the learners in the decision making process. Post secondary learners are not empty vessels and have a wealth of experience that can be employed in any classroom. This approach puts the onus onto the learner to achieve the outcome that they have negotiated. It is no longer an alien task that belongs to the teacher, but a personalised outcome.
2. Once the learners have negotiated the outcome, it is now over to the teacher to develop or obtain resources that will engage the learners and simultaneously address the outcome/s. It's definitely time to ask yourself this simple question - "What motivates me to learn?" Whenever I ask myself this question, it's always the same answer - a topic that interests me and has a hands-on and/or fun component. With many people today, particularly youth, if you can locate interactive activities or games that cover concepts under consideration, then half the battle is won. The other half of the battle is training some learners to use the technological device or software.
3. Ensure the resources and learning styles are synchronous because you will have non-motivated learners on your hands if you haven't considered these aspects when selecting and delivering learning material. For example, in my class there were several young people who were interested in surfing. Some of the older students had surfed and through discussion indicated they would enjoy completing a project based on surfing. However, there were a few who weren't interested in this topic. How to motivate these learners? NEGOTIATION! We would discuss the activities that were in the project and align them with the outcomes they had elected to achieve for that learning block. Once they were able to see the benefit of the activities they completed the project. Also, I negotiated other topics that would interest them and I timetabled them into their contact time.
I previously mentioned you need an equitable relationship with the teacher to successfully motivate learners. Throughout the negotiation process you are developing this relationship. Discussing topics, learning materials and styles gives learners the opportunity to express their opinion in a safe, supportive and equitable environment. From my experience, developing this type of relationship with the members of the class resulted in highly motivated learners who trusted my opinion and the pedagogical methods I implemented to assist them achieve their outcomes.
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