Thursday, April 2, 2009

Motivation: Studied by the Motivated

When I teach about motivation I often begin by asking people what motivates them. I encourage my students to be bold so I have heard it all. Sex almost always makes the list accompanied by a flourish of laughter. The motivational potential is not argued but the tension still hangs thick. The idea is made quite clear that for something to be motivating it has to have some sort of value even if that value is difficult to grasp or discuss. As research in education moves from things to be known to knowing as active participation with and within the context it is important that similarly research in motivation looks beyond the idea that motivation is something that is singularly carried around by any one individual.
As the ideas of knowing expand so to do the ideas surrounding what motivation and motivational research looks like (or needs to look like) in these ever more complex environments. When a researcher gets to a point where the basic tenants of their thinking about learning and knowing move beyond the individual it is of central importance that the assumptions held surrounding motivation do not reside in a place that can not by the very virtue of the existing assumptions coexist.
Motivation is an important construct that is just recently beginning to be looked at from a sociocultural perspective. In Hickey 2003 achievement motivation is looked at under the term engaged participation. What is engaged participation and what benefits does it hold beyond that of an individual view of motivation? These are big questions to which the answers are not known however they are of utmost importance. It follows however that the motivational theories related to a more situative view of motivation are less completely developed than the corresponding views of learning. When Hickey calls this "murky" he is not kidding. As I look across motivational research one thing becomes evident. Ideas of motivation being situated have existed for a long time. Motivation has often been tied to the context however much of this research treats these messy contextual factors as something outside of the focus of the research itself. This in light of the situative view of learning and knowing shows us that researchers have often seen the contextualized bonds between the target of the motivational research (often the individual) and the context in which the individual is currently participating (at various levels) ie engaged participation. So what I am saying is the messy parts of individually based motivation research may in fact point to the need for contextual and participatory structures to be viewed in relation to motivation from a situational perspective.
I hope to revisit this and other ideas related to my own thinking about motivation.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last night I was called a Socialist

This is a true story. I will not use names to protect those involved. The title pretty much sums it all up. During a rather heated debate on education and educational reform last night I was called a socialist. This was in the context of an educational debate with a professional educational reformer. My intended goal today was to write about how understanding current research in the field of education specifically and across many other domains is of central importance to understanding the true complexities facing education in and across formal and informal contexts. Instead I want to pose a question that I believe is of central importance to communication between the wide range of constituents involved in the wide world of education. This question is not new however today it seems much more relevant and acid green. How can we (meaning those involved in educational research, education, educational reform and all those constituents to the educational system) make claims that answer the right questions? This is, of course, a reiteration of Greeno's On Claims that Answer the Wrong Questions and subsequently is not a new concept. I am not claiming to be original here. What I am claiming is that there has to be a better way to talk to each other. It is important to understand that I understand that talking across domains can be like walking a tight rope needing to offer a highly coordinated production to balance the knowing that is shared and the knowing that is constructed in the moment. The idea of motivation comes into play as does the goals of those involved. It is hard work to communicate and a herculean task to do it well. I however was not engaged in a conversation across a sea of difference but with a professional educational reformer who was highly educated and currently extremely active in and within the same context.
I was metaphorically and quite literally speaking a different language. There should have been someone in the middle of this conversation offering a fluid translation between what I was saying and what he was saying... Do these people even exist? If they do they have no idea how valuable they are. We live in a world where our ideas are not solitary things they are public. They are born in the public domain and that is where they have been sent to grow and change. This type of situation makes it ever more important that we understand what is being said. Each term needs to be understood for any semblance of what is actually being said to be what is read and the message that is heard. We need a common language and we need it quickly if what we say today and what we find in research is going to affect anyone beside our own tightly knit communities. We need people at the boundaries to clarify and advocate and to most importantly ensure that these boundaries stay permeable and fluid and do not become armaments barring the ability for good solid research to affect the beliefs of those working for educational reform. These are the people who are already positioned to bring change and it is important when looking at issues of communication to look beyond communication solely within academia to those people positioned in education and educational reform itself.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Check it out

There is a video of John Seely Brown here that may be interesting before his SOTL presentation next month.

Also this may interest some of you.

To Reward or Not to Reward

To Reward or Not to Reward, this is often the question.

This debate has once again surfaced in a recent article in the New York Times

The issues seem to surround not only the use of rewards themselves but the types of rewards or incentives, the rate at which these incentives are applied and of course the systematic exclusion of those who for one reason or another do not meet the thresholds for rewards.

Chance would like to focus our attention to what it is we consider a reward and or rewarding. He would say teachers using praise is a reward. Is feedback a reward? Dweck would caution us that Praise can be Dangerous and Kohn would say that we need to look beyond efficiency to the long term results to learning and motivation for the continuation of learning.

What is it that we are rewarding: participation, completion, performance? And what of the long-term effects on motivation? Is efficient performance in the short-term enough or should we be looking forward to the longer-term possibilities.

And some say, as in the NYT article linked above, that if kids are failing shouldn't we use whatever tools we have ranging from rewards to paying students to learn if it helps the situation.

It is a lot to think about. It is also hard to really understand because in my own life I have always just really liked to think about thinking and learning and school was something I did well. It is hard to know if rewards would have helped or hindered my situation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Best of both worlds

Inou12learn. This reads as I (no) know (u) you 12 (want to) learn and is based in my interest in everyday learning and ways of learning. Informal learning, learning in and across contexts, motivation, metacognition, and metaconceptual thought are just a few topics of interest.

As a graduate student in Indiana University's Learning Sciences department I have come to view learning in more and more complex ways and across contexts. I have adopted the mantra context matters and found myself boggled by the sheer complexities of the world.

I look forward to sharing a journey navigating boundaries, contexts and worlds in the search of learning. I will not speak of grand theories but instead contextually bound ways of participation.