Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Surprisingly Beneficial Way to Think About Motivation



Every teenager is motivated. Every student is motivated. Every teacher. Every parent. Every person is 100% motivated. That's right. You're 100% motivated to do exactly what you're doing at any given moment. 

I've been reading The Game Changer: How to Use the Science of Motivation With the Power of Game Design to Shift Behaviour, Shape Culture and Make Clever Happen by Jason Fox. Besides having a spectacularly long title, the book is long on great ideas too. The author makes a strong case for ways game design can be applied to bring motivation to life and work.

The book shows how we are motivated to do what we are currently doing in a given moment. That's why it's not helpful to assume someone just isn't a motivated person. 

Whatever we are doing is what we are motivated to do.

As a result, it doesn't make sense to try to change motivation. It might be possible, but it's very difficult. We will default to activities that provide the richest sense of progress. Motivation isn't the problem. The problem is the work itself. We want work that is satisfying.

We meaning WE, all of us. The adults in the school want meaningful work, and so do the students. All of us.

That doesn't mean that every moment of the work will be satisfying, but overall, we see progress and benefits from the work we are doing. I'm guessing none of us would do anything we are currently doing if we didn't see it as valuable or necessary to some relevant and beneficial purpose. 

And if we were required to do something out of compliance, that we did not value or find satisfying, over time it would be soul crushing and mind numbing. I wonder if some of our students feel that way?

If all of this is true, does it really make sense to expect students to change their motivation toward learning in your classroom or school? We plead with them to do their homework. We try to convince them why the work we offer them is so important to their future. We fuss at them to do more. We try to get them to buy-in to the game of school.

But why don't we just change the game? 

Why don't we reduce the friction? That's the point I was trying to make in a previous post, 9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible

I'm not saying we should make things easier, just more meaningful. Gamers fail as much as 80% of the time. Kids are extremely persistent when playing the games they love. They will persist in spite of frustration. They enjoy the challenge. They will stay with the struggle.

If kids aren't persisting in our lessons, maybe we need to change the game. Every game includes goals, rules, and feedback. Every classroom includes goals, rules, and feedback. 

If we have an effective learning design, students WILL be motivated and you WILL successfully influence their behavior. Instead of expecting students to adjust to your game, why not develop the game with their motivations in mind? 

Why not change the learning to meet the students where they are? To me, that's true relevance.

The students in your class who are struggling have probably always struggled in school. That becomes a pattern of frustration and failure. What are you doing to disrupt that pattern? What are you doing to be a game changer?

I'm really curious to know your thoughts on all of this. Leave me a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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