Instructional design/Intrinsically Motivating

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This lesson rationalizes the use of and describes the basis of how to create intrinsically motivating instruction within the realm of instructional design. Please use the following tabs to navigate through the lesson.

Why Intrinsic Motivation?[edit | edit source]

Rationale[edit | edit source]

If you have any experience with education or instruction, you may realize the importance of motivating learners to engage the material. Poorly motivated students will not engage and therefore will not digest and retain the material presented. Traditionally, research has supported the use of extrinsic motivation within instruction and education. This involves using external reinforcers as motivational incentives. For example, we may give a dog a treat when teaching him/her to sit. We may punish a child for throwing the clothes on the floor when trying to teach them to be neat. However, since the 1970's, a growing body of research has begun to explore the conditions under which external reinforcement destroys intrinsic motivation. That is, the natural drive to engage in and pursue an activity in which learning occurs. As an example, let us examine a study on nursery school children who liked to play with marking pens: When these children received a promised reward for playing with these marking pens, they later played with them less than children in a control group who received no reward. Top theorists have previously described the strengths of implementing intrinsically motivating learning techniques to foster deeper learning. For example, French psychologist Jean Piaget has stated that “If students are intrinsically motivated to learn something, they may spend more time and effort learning, feel better about what they learn, and use it more in the future.”

Because of this recent research within the realm of motivation, modern Instructional Designers have begun to strive to design instructional environments which do not rely on extrinsic motivation and which cultivate learners' natural drive to learn. Before we learn more about intrinsic motivation and its relation to learning, please take the time to complete the following short introductory exercise.

Examples[edit | edit source]

Please take the time to consider the following two examples of learner motivation. Which one do you think relies on intrinsic motivation? Which one do you think relies on extrinsic motivation?

1. Elementary school children learning how to spell new vocabulary words are awarded extra recess time.

2. You explain to a group of elementary school children that later on in class, they will have a chance to sit in on story telling time. However, if they do not prove they understand the following vocabulary, they will not be able to understand the story.

Here, example number 1 relies on extrinsic motivation. This is because the object of the game, learning how to spell, is re-enforced with an externally provided award. Example number 2 on the other hand, relies on intrinsic motivation. This is because, though a prize is awarded (storytelling time), the prize is inherently related to the material. In other words, the learner is naturally motivated to practice the skills being taught (vocabulary) as a means to apply them within the activity of story time. Furthermore, the learner will make the natural connection that the more vocabulary they learn, the better they will be able to understand stories that are interesting to them and the better they will be able to participate in story time.

Introductory Exercise[edit | edit source]

Play "Darts"[edit | edit source]

Please open the following link to play a version of the popular computer game “Darts.” This particular version has been adapted into an educational game to teach simple fractions. You only need to play a couple of rounds in order to get an idea of how the game works.

"Darts" Comparison[edit | edit source]

Now, turn your attention to the following graphic representation of the same game. This version is the same as the original but lacks many elements found within the original game: There is no feedback on if the answer is right or wrong, there are no balloons or arrows, and there is no cheering when the correct answer is given and a balloon pops. Furthermore, there is no scoring system and no limit to the amount of guesses one has to guess the correct answer. Which version do you think is more fun? Which of the above components of the game do you feel are motivational factors that make the game fun to play?

Darts 4.png

Discussion[edit | edit source]

If you thought that the original game was more fun, most people seem to agree with you. These are the motivational factors that make the game fun:

1) Balloons pop when the player gets the right answer.

2) Through the player’s answer, he or she controls a “dart” that directly “pops” the balloon target.

3) Cheering is heard when a balloon is popped.

4) The player only has a certain amount of “darts” to get the right answer.

5) Because the player is made aware when his or her answer is correct, he or she is motivated to continue playing until the right answer is achieved.

Both versions of the game are educational in the sense that they both allow the player to practice simple fractions. However, the original version of the game employs certain design techniques (seen above) which serve to motivate the player to continue playing the game, which ultimately allows the player to gain more practice with the educational goal of the game: familiarization with simple fractions.

Thomas W. Malone's Criteria For Motivation[edit | edit source]

Though no game is identical in its features, many of the motivational factors found within the above game are generalizable. Therefore, amalgamations of these same factors can also be found within most other popular computer games and non-computer games. By studying these naturally motivating forces, Thomas W. Malone has developed a guide or criteria for use within the realm of instruction. Within this module, you will learn the essential components of Malone’s "Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction" specifically related to his work on Fantasy and Challenge. Though his theory extends beyond just these two factors, the content of this module will allow you as a designer to employ basic rules to create intrinsically motivating instructional environments within your own work. Because it is critical to employ aspects of fantasy when creating challenging learning environments, we will examine Malone’s work within the realm of Fantasy first.

Fantasy[edit | edit source]

Many top theorists have described the role of fantasy within learning and motivation. For example, Jean Piaget explains fantasy in children's play “as a means to ‘assimilate’ experience into existing mental structures without the need to accommodate to the demands of external reality.” Freud has described fantasy as a means for children to emotionally resolve conflicts within their personal life. Though, admittedly, these theorists predominantly describe fantasies which people produce themselves, Malone argues that similar processes would logically be involved in determining the fantasies that people find appealing within external environments. Within his work, Malone describes two main types of fantasy and how of the two, one is better suited for use within instruction. These two forms of fantasy are described bellow. Subsequently, their strengths and weaknesses in relation to instruction are discussed.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Fantasies.[edit | edit source]

Extrinsic Fantasies[edit | edit source]

In extrinsic fantasies, the fantasy depends on the use of the skill but not vice versa. For example, Speedway is a computer game in which students' cars move along a race track depending on how fast they answer arithmetic problems. Here, the skill (arithmetic computation speed) affects the fantasy (how fast the car moves along the track). However, the fantasy does not affect the skill used. In other words, the same fantasy could be used with completely different kinds of problems (how fast players can spell words, for example).

Think back to the computer game “Darts” played earlier in the lesson. In this example, the balloons popping represent an extrinsic fantasy. The balloons popping represents an extrinsic fantasy in this case because the popping occurs as an effect caused by a correct answer. However, this correct answer could be in relation to anything and is not dependent on the specific material being taught. For example, if the player was practicing spelling, a balloon could pop once they spelled the word correctly.

Intrinsic Fantasies[edit | edit source]

In intrinsic fantasies, on the other hand, not only does the fantasy depend on the skill, but the skill also depends on the fantasy. For example, “Hurkle” is a computer game in which players search for a hidden animal on a Cartesian grid; and “Snoopy” is a game in which ‘Snoopy’ shoots at the ‘Red Baron’ on a number line. In both of these math based games, the skill depends on the fantasy. In other words, the elements of the skill being practiced are actually embedded in the fantasy being employed (the Cartesian grid and the number line).

Think back again to the computer game “Darts” played earlier in the lesson. In this example, the “shooting” of the darts represents an intrinsic fantasy. This is because the fantasy of the dart is reliant on the goal of the game. In other words, the dart’s position is determined by the fraction that the player chooses. The existence of the dart fantasy would therefore not make sense within a spelling game for example. To be clear, if the dart’s positioning was not dependent on the answer given by the player, then the dart fantasy would in fact be an extrinsic fantasy.

Malone’s Preference for Intrinsic Fantasies for Use within Instruction and Instructional Games[edit | edit source]

Here, I would like to make clear that Malone strongly favors intrinsic fantasies over extrinsic fantasies. He believes that in general, intrinsic fantasies are “both (a) more interesting and (b) more instructional than extrinsic fantasies.” This is because intrinsic fantasies often:

1) Naturally indicate how the skills being taught can be used to accomplish a real world goal (as in simulations). A good example of this can be seen within the game “Hurkle,” described above: A learner would actually employ the use of a Cartesian grid in real life within a map search.

2) Employ relevant imagery which may provoke learner memory assimilation and recall. For example, when working with fractions in real life or at school, a child who has played the game “Darts,” may actually recall the imagery of the game in order to assist them in their current task.

3) Provide naturally occurring constructive feedback, since problems are naturally presented in terms of the elements found within the fantasy world. Once again, in the “Darts” game example, players are able to view their answers represented upon the screen. This is a naturally occurring instance of constructive feedback because this visual representation allows the player to compare their current answer to other guesses they have made, and in relation to the target (the balloon).

As seen above, incorporating intrinsic fantasies into instruction can be a very powerful motivating tool within learning. However, to be effective, intrinsic fantasies must inherently be tied to the goals of the particular instruction one is trying bring about. Because this is not always an easy process, , the next section on Challenge describes how designers can design goals which are integrated within an intrinsic fantasy. This section will also define Challenge within instruction and describe how to bring about the appropriate level of Challenge within a learning environment.

Challenge[edit | edit source]

Malone describes how in his research, many theorists have emphasized the importance of challenge within intrinsic motivation. This is because, for a learner to be naturally motivated to learn something, he or she must be able to engage with the material at an appropriate level. If the material is too challenging or not challenging enough, the learner will become either bored or frustrated and lose this quality of engagement. Malone has discovered that for an environment to remain challenging it must “provide goals whose attainment is uncertain.” These critical attributes will be subsequently discussed bellow.

Goals.[edit | edit source]

In order to create a challenging environment, and instructor or designer must create appropriate level goals. To accomplish this, Malone describes 3 specific criteria: Goals must be personally meaningful, made obvious and compelling, and provide a method of performance feedback. These criteria are discussed bellow.

Personally Meaningful Goals[edit | edit source]

Personally Meaningful Goals are the kinds of goals that students care about, find relevant, or fun. Malone firmly believes that for any game or instructional environment to be motivational, it must be personally meaningful to the learner.

Consider the following: You are teaching a young learner about latitude and longitude. Which of the following two prescriptions do you feel is more motivational for the learner:

1. After reading the definitions of latitude and longitude in a text, the learner completes a set of questions in which they must determine where certain battles took place in World War II.

2. After reading the definitions of latitude and longitude in a text, the learner must track the locations of a mythical hero on a quest in order to discover the outcome/conclusion of the quest.

In the above example, the second choice is personally meaningful to the learner. This is because the concept of the mythological hero is familiar to them—they can relate it to their own experience. It also becomes more personally meaningful because the learner is driven by curiosity to discover the outcome of the quest. The first prescription on the other hand, is ineffective at becoming personally meaningful to the learner because the goal of the activity (WWII battle locations) more than likely has little or no relevance to their personal life.

As on may imagine, one of obstacles in creating personally meaningful goals is that the material being taught is not always personally meaningful to the learner. In order to sidestep this obstacle, one can implement a more fun or interesting goal (Secondary Goal) as a means to achieving the skill to be taught (Primary Goal). In the above example, the primary goal is to teach longitude and latitude, though this primary goal is achieved through employing the secondary goals of either ‘WWII battle locations’ or ‘the tracking of a hero quest.’ Still, designing personally meaningful goals can still be challenging. However, according to Malone, another way to effectively create goals that are personally meaningful to the learner, is to integrate the primary or secondary goal within an intrinsic fantasy. The essentials of intrinsic fantasy were outlined in the above section.

Obvious and Compelling Goals[edit | edit source]

According to Malone, games can have two different kinds of goals:

Fixed Goals[edit | edit source]

Fixed Goals are goals that are predetermined by cultural convention. For example, the goal of Chess is to capture the king. For games and instructional situations which employ fixed goals, learner motivation should be ensured by clearly delineating the goal and its parameters, and by ensuring that the learner understands the process and has the ability to accomplish said goal. Fixed goals can be made obvious and compelling by the use of visual and audio effects.

Emergent Goals[edit | edit source]

Emergent goals are goals which arise out of the interaction between a person and the environment (drawing a picture or writing a story). Examples of games that use emergent goals include Role Playing Games (RPG’s), in which the final outcome of the game depends on the choices the player makes throughout the game; or artistic games in which the player gets to draw or build something of their choice but using predetermined templates, shapes or objects. Designers of games with emergent goals should make these goals obvious and compelling by structuring them so that users can easily generate goals of appropriate difficulty. In other words, make sure that the parameters of the game do not fall outside of players’ skill level, or they will be unable to succeed at the game and will become frustrated.

Let us revisit the example of the learner assimilating knowledge about longitude and latitude by tracking a mythological hero on a map. Say you also want to teach the learner how to read topographic maps—relative height as well as location. This could be done in the following two ways:

1. The basics of how to read a topographic map are explained to the learner. Then the learner is told to label the relative height above sea level of each of the locations that the hero has been to along his quest.

2. The basics of how to read a topographic map are explained to the learner. The learner uses the topographic to plan the route the hero will take on his quest.

This first example, is an example of a fixed goal because the learner is explicitly told what to do to accomplish the activity. The second example, on the other hand, is an example of an emergent goal. This is because the outcome of the game is not set and the learner has a partial ability to determine the goal of the game as it progresses.

Performance Feedback[edit | edit source]

Performance Feedback simply means that learners are made aware that their answers are correct or incorrect. In order to be motivated by a goal, learners usually need some kind of performance feedback to tell whether they are achieving their goal. In the above example, the learner would simply need to know if the location that he or she chose was correct or incorrect. In the game “Darts,” the performance feedback includes, cheering after a correct answer, a “yes” mark if the answer is correct, and the popping of the balloon.

Uncertain Outcome[edit | edit source]

An environment is not challenging if the person is either certain to reach the goal or certain not to reach the goal. Furthermore, games and instructional environments are more motivating when the learner has the ability to ascend to higher levels of the game.

Variable Difficulty Level.[edit | edit source]

In computer games, as well as in other educational activities, the choice of difficulty level can be either:

(a) Determined automatically according to how well the player does. Think back to the game “tetris.” Here you are only able to go on to subsequent (more difficult) levels after you have ‘beaten’ the earlier levels.

(b) Chosen by the learner. The game “Darts” uses this form of variable difficulty level. Before the player begins the game, he or she has a choice of difficulty level (1-20), and a choice of how many darts (1-10).

(c) Determined by the opponent's skill. The game “Chess” is a good example of this type of variable difficulty level. The difficulty of the game depends on the player’s opponent.

Multiple Level Goals.[edit | edit source]

Malone explains that good computer games often have several different levels of goals. With this feature, players whose outcome is certain at one level of goal may still be challenged by another level of goal. This factor motivates learners to continue playing and hone their skills. Malone believes that there are at least two kinds of multiple level goals:

1) In the first kind of multiple level goals, all the goals are of the same type, but they vary in difficulty. The chief advantage of this type of multiple level goal is that it maintains the learner engaged and motivated as they become more and more adept at achieving the skills necessary to accomplish the goal of the game. In the game “Darts” for example, the game is more difficult with smaller fraction sizes (the difference between ½ and 1/3rd is way greater than the difference between 1/16th and 1/17th for example).

2) In the second kind of multiple level goal, the higher level goals involve accomplishing the lower level goals "better." High level goals, in other words, often deal with solving problems faster or with fewer steps. Malone believes that the desire to achieve higher level goals is a naturally occurring form of cognitive motivation in which the learner optimizes existing mental procedures. Therefore, environments that include scorekeeping or speeded responses emphasize higher level goals and are especially appropriate for instructional situations (like drill-and-practice) where the purpose is to optimize previously learned procedures. In the game “Darts” for example, the high level goal is to pop the balloons in the fewest amount of tries possible.

Practice Activity #1[edit | edit source]

Please visit the following website and play the game to answer the following questions. Once you arrive at the page, select “Play” and then select the last tab on the subsequent page (Game: Save the princess game):

1 Which of the following is the “Primary Goal” or skill being practiced/taught to the player/learner?

Mean, Median, Mode, Range.
Saving the princess.

2 Does this game have a “Secondary Goal,” or goal that makes the achievement of the primary goal more fun or interesting? If so, what is it?

Saving the princess.
Building and climbing a log ladder.
Building and crossing a bridge.

3 This game utilizes an instance of intrinsic fantasy and an instance of extrinsic fantasy. Select the answer which is the instance of intrinsic fantasy.

Arranging wooden logs in ascending order of length in order to build a ladder.
Building and crossing a bridge by answering correctly to questions about mean, median, range, and mode.

4 Does this game have an emergent or fixed goal?

Emergent Goal
Fixed Goal

5 How does this game make the goal compelling?

Appealing visuals.
Appealing audio.
All of the above.

6 What makes this game personally meaningful to the player?

Playing as a ‘hero’ and ‘saving’ a ‘princess.’
Practicing Mean, Median, Mode, and Range.
Not wanting to ‘go to jail.’

7 How does this game provide performance feedback?

A woman’s voice tells you if you got the right answer or not.
A sound of success or failure plays depending on your answer.
You are able to continue to the next round if your answers are correct.
You must go to jail if you get too many wrong answers.
All of the above.

Practice Activity #2[edit | edit source]

Please take the time to play the popular old-school computer game bellow and answer the following questions.

1 As you play the game “Bounce Back,” you discover that some of the bricks within the game have certain items that fall out of them when they are broken. These items have different effects on the game’s playability, often to your benefit. Catching these items is what kind of goal?


2 How is the difficulty level set in this game?

Determined automatically according to how well the player does.
Chosen by the learner.
Determined by the opponent's skill.

3 In this game, the level of difficulty between breaking bricks of different colors describes which type of Malone’s multiple level goal?

Malone’s first multiple level goal type.
Malone’s second multiple level goal type.

4 User testing set up requires:

Time limit.
Score keeping.
Increased speed of the ball in subsequent levels of the game.
All of the above.