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Adventures in Learning Design

A series of conversations about ideas, principles, research and practice. Join the LearnJam team as they explore how to make learning more effective and enjoyable, whether it's in the workplace, in school, university or at home.

Jan 7, 2021

Motivation is one of the most important learning design principles – but also one of the most difficult to design for. Lots of the things we need to learn aren't intrinsically motivating, especially if it's something just have to learn for work or for our studies. And extrinsic motivators, like rewards and punishments often don't work.

So, a key aim for Learning Designers is to maximise the intrinsic motivation in a learning experience. That means fostering self-direction and agency, providing positive feedback on performance, and encouraging perseverance when things get hard (and learning is hard!)

We share some examples of recent learning experience that we've gone through and which we found really motivating (music production, running and wellbeing) – and think about why that was, and what some of the Learning Design decisions were in the products that we used.

We discuss two theories of motivation:

  • Self-determination theory (from researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci) suggests that there are three essential ingredients for motivation: autonomy, competence and relatedness. That means we need to feel in control of our learning, we need to feel like we're achieving and making progress, and we need to see how what we're learning is relevant to our lives and personal interests.
  • The 'ideal future self theory', based on research by Zoltán Dörnyei tells us that if we can help learners to build a clear and tangible vision of who they want to become through learning, then we can develop motivation.

And finally, we talk about how we've put these theories into practice in some of our recent projects.