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Post no. 2 in my further reflections on the Learning & Skills group conference.
Many organisations find that motivating their employees to take responsibility for their own learning is a limiting factor.
Motivation is the internal condition that activates behavior and gives it direction; energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior. (Wikipedia 30/07/09)
It comes in two forms; extrinsic and intrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation is the internal desires to perform a particular task; people do certain activities because it gives them pleasure, develops a particular skill, or it’s morally the right thing to do.
Extrinsic motivation is the factors external to the individual and unrelated to the task they are performing. Examples include money, good grades, and other rewards.
Without motivated learners we (learning designers, trainers, tutors, authors etc) may as well just give up. Nothing we could do would make any difference at all.
Ideally, we would move from learners being reliant on extrinsic motivating factors to intrinsic factors. That's the point at which they have then taken responsibility for their own learning.
A question I always ask at the outset of any learning design project is: "Why are learners going to engage with these materials / activities?"
Too often, the answer comes back: "Because we'll tell them to."
I'm sorry. That's not enough. All you'll get then is conscripts. People who don't really want to be there. If they do learn anything, or change their behaviour as a result then that will be a fluke. This is less true of face-to-face interactions as the facilitator/trainer can do more to engage the delegates when they arrive.
With online learning, however, the learner is in total control. If they're not motivated in the first place, you've got an incredibly difficult job to engage them - when they can so easily just turn off at any time. At best, they might just click through your materials...
So, how do we move individuals from being unmotivated to learn through to taking responsibility for their own learning?
Based on my experience of that particular journey, I would suggest the following ideas:
- Be explicit about "What's in it for me?" whenever you're trying to promote anything new.
- Take more of a coaching attitude to management, rather than providing all the answers.
- Develop a culture of personal responsibility. Wider than just learning, this should include performance, finance and mistakes.
- Allow mistakes to happen. But make sure all concerned learn from those mistakes. "What did you learn today?" should become a standard question in team meetings.
- Provide access to resources and networks, and help people see how they can get the most out of them.