“The only lasting thing is self motivation.” ~Homer Rice~

Many will read the above quote and think ‘speak for yourself... the only thing that DOESN’T last is my self motivation!

But the truth is that there’s only one kind of motivation in life that will last... And that is a motivation that comes from within.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the difference between success and failure usually depends on motivation. But what kind of motivation is the winning kind? Psychologists have defined two broad categories of what motivates people, called intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation - choosing to do or learn something because it inherently gives us a sense of satisfaction or pleasure.

Extrinsic Motivation - doing something for external reward or punishment, (If I don’t turn in my assignment, I will get an F, if I don’t go to work, my boss will be mad.)

It goes without saying that we’re more excited to do things when WE decide to do them, not when we do something to avoid punishment. But the science on the matter reveals something surprising.

A 2014 study conducted on over 11,000 West Point cadets showed, unsurprisingly, that “the stronger their internal reasons were to attend West Point, the more likely cadets were to graduate and become commissioned officers… and were also more likely to stay in the military after their five years of mandatory service.” But that wasn’t the best part.

Unexpected Results

The more surprising results came later on in the study: further investigation revealed that cadets who had both strong intrinsic AND extrinsic motivations, did much worse than those cadets with strong intrinsic but lacked external motives. In other words, when a person has strong internal motives, the existence of external motivation can actually hurt their success.

So, What Does This Mean About The Education System?

These findings have vast implications on the field of education because even if a student is naturally interested in say, history, then adding external motivation such as a test or quiz may crush their natural curiosity to learn the subject.

Formal education revolves around standardized testing and assessment (AKA the most textbook example of extrinsic motivation.) Some countries such as China even use high-stakes testing to determine an individual’s future. A single exam can be the difference between studying at a prestigious academy or not being accepted to a university at all.

So we know that if we add external motivators we may hurt our internal motivation. But on the other hand if we remove any kind of reward or consequence then what are we left with? How will people stay motivated to learn anything at all?

The simple solution

The answer is curiosity. A curious mind does not need external motivation to learn, and explore, and achieve great things. Then the question remains how can we foster curiosity in a learning setting? To answer this we must first understand two different types of learning.

Formal Vs. Informal Learning

As the name implies, formal learning is structured learning that happens within an organization like a university. By definition it is intentional learning that has explicitly defined objectives.

Informal learning, by contrast, is learning without any set objectives. Learning is never the primary goal of the activity, for example socialization and play.

A large part of informal education is driven by curiosity. As such, individuals enjoy the learning process much more than when studying something they feel forced to learn.

A possible solution for our education system would be to drive curiosity by incorporating as much informal learning as possible. This would reduce the need for external rewards such as quizzes and tests, and lead to self regulated learning (SRL).

Self regulated learning breeds curiosity and fosters an intrinsic motivation to learn, which means the sky's the limit for how much (and how quickly) a student can learn material.

The issue with Self Regulated Learning

But self regulated learning poses some difficulties, such as the matter of grades and assessment. How can we measure that we have mastered what we set out to learn?

Assessment and grading becomes much more complicated when dealing with self regulated learning, but there is a good solution. If the learner is in charge of supplying the information, they should also be in charge of the assessment.

Natural Process: Self assessment

Part of learning new information requires an assessment process. The only difference between an external assessment and self assessment is that we simply need to keep the process internalized by reflecting and deciding if we ourselves are satisfied with the results.

This “self assessment” is actually a very natural process, in fact we learn to do it as early as the age of two years old. When we are personally invested in learning something, our own opinions are the best measure of success. Self assessment completes the circle of intrinsic motivation without bringing in outside factors.

We at Knowsome recognize the incredible importance of self-assessment in the learning process, and that’s why our app integrates opportunities for checking your knowledge and making your own evaluations.

We understand that with the right motivation, you can learn anything, anytime. Our aim is to help you find that motivation.

The Knowsome team is constantly researching and applying the latest methods to spark curiosity, so if you want to join this new movement of casual learning, download the app and continue your lifelong learning journey with us.