A description of 4 essential elements for intrinsic motivation

In 1987, Thomas Malone and Mark Lepper published a systematic framework for intrinsic motivation in order to understand how we might avoid the dampening effect that tends to happen in schools. they observed that games appear to strongly motivate players to engage in problem solving and critical thinking, they used the lens of games to conduct their research.
they observed children playing games and then asked them what did them go on wothnthe game.
The outcome of their research were four individual motivating factors:

  • Challenge

Learners prefer the right level of challenge. In order for an activity to be challenging in a good way, goal statements have to be clear and performance feedback has to be provided to engage and increase the learner’s confidence. A mix of proximal and distal goals should be provided to keep learners immediately engaged with an eye on  a future “prize.”

  • Curiosity

Curiosity is the element of surprise. Malone and Lepper distinguished between curiosity arising from the novelty of technical disposition or other un expected elements in the game which they called “sensory curiosity” and “cognitive curiosity” which primal demand is to organize our knowledge structures more efficiently.

  • Control

For control to be motivating, it has to be tied to a learner’s belief that she is capable of succeeding: too many choices and the learner is unable to distinguish between them and becomes frustrated

  • Fantasy

The optimal learning environment might be ones in which learners can create their own fantasies (e.g., create imaginary characters, locations, objects).

The researchers distinguished between fantasies that depend on the skill being learned (e.g., as in Hangman, where the hanged man appears as correct letters are not identified) and situations where the skill being learned and the fantasy depend on one another.



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