We learning professionals spend a good deal of our energy trying to design and develop learning solutions that will effectively help people learn. Sometimes less energy is directed toward why people want to learn in the first place. In her book, Interface Design for Learning, Dorian Peters suggests that motivation should play a critical role in how we approach the design of our learning solutions. Making sure we understand what motivates learners will help us understand which approaches may work, and which may not.
Two primary types of motivation exist: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when we do something because it is inherently interesting or rewarding (like learning to play an instrument), while extrinsic motivation is when we do something because it leads to a separable outcome (like earning a degree in music). Which is better? Both types of motivation have autonomy as a central component, and Peters suggests that autonomy is the key to distinguishing helpful types of motivation from unhelpful ones. But because intrinsic motivation is inherently autonomous, it is generally considered the ideal form of motivation for learning. That said, extrinsic motivation can play a stronger role when intrinsic motivation reaches its limits; not all learning can be tied to intrinsic motivation, after all. So how do intrinsic and extrinsic motivation influence the learning solutions you develop? What are some ways that we as learning professionals can make sure we’re designing with motivation in mind?