Motivation by Gamification


Check out this awesome lecture by Dan Pink on the surprising truth about what motivates us.  He summarizes a study done at MIT and elaborates on the fact that having autonomy, mastery, and purpose is significantly more motivating than other incentives, including substantial monetary rewards:

Those are some really surprising results and I wondered about how to apply them to adult learning.  It got me thinking about another huge trend in adult education: gamification. Ultimately, when you hear or read about how much time gamers spend solving virtual problems, so much of it has to do with autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is why I believe gamification is here to stay for adult learners, as further evidenced by this recent tweet:

When I think about the principles of gamification and how it can tap into the motivation of adult learners, I really, really want to incorporate it into my teaching.  But it seems very time consuming, expensive, and frankly too advanced for my current knowledge and abilities.


There is, however, some advice out there about how to implement effective, low-cost gaming strategies into our teaching.  Keith Gibson suggests incorporating learner creativity, productive failure, and competition in order to hone in on the intrinsic motivation of adult learners.  This is my favourite quote from that article:

“Gamification principles made learners almost 20 times as likely to organize knowledge and relate it to existing knowledge”

Banfield & Wilkerson (2014)

Ultimately, the recent science of motivation in learning isn’t supporting the old carrot and stick philosophy that we’ve come to know.  And recent evidence of the intrinsic motivation of adult learners supports the use of gamification technology, especially when you consider the next generation of adult learners, and how much of their lives have been spent playing games.


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