I’ve designed and delivered more training and learning than I’ve had hot dinners. And as my hobby is cooking – that’s a lot of hot dinners. I’ve also studied a lot – degree, two masters and a doctorate (overkill I know). So, I’m very interested in how we can learn better and stay motivated to learn.
Some people might say that rewards are the best way to boost your learning. After all, who doesn’t like a nice bonus, a certificate, or a gold star for completing a task?
But others might argue that rewards can actually undermine your intrinsic motivation, the drive that comes from within. They might say that autonomy, the freedom to choose what and how you learn, is more important than external incentives.
So, who is right? And how can you use both autonomy and rewards to enhance your learning and motivate yourself?
According to Kageyama, a psychologist and performance coach, both autonomy and rewards can work together to improve your learning outcomes and enjoyment. Autonomy is not just about choosing what to learn, but also how to learn it. Research shows that giving learners more control over the pace, difficulty, and feedback of their learning activities can increase their motivation and performance. For example, you can use self-paced online courses, adaptive learning platforms, or gamified apps to tailor your learning experience to your preferences and goals.
Also, rewards are not always bad for your motivation, but they have to be aligned with your values and interests. Research also shows that rewards can enhance your learning if they are congruent with your intrinsic motivation. For example, you can use rewards that reflect your personal growth, such as progress charts, skill badges, or peer recognition. Avoid rewards that are contingent on performance, such as grades, money, or prizes, as they can reduce your interest and enjoyment of learning.
I feel that looking at the research as well as my own experience in both as a teacher and as a student, autonomy and rewards can complement each other if they are balanced and integrated. The research suggests that combining autonomy and rewards can produce optimal results for your learning. For example, you can use rewards as feedback or reinforcement for your autonomous choices, such as rewarding yourself for completing a self-chosen project or challenge. Alternatively, you can use rewards as a source of autonomy, such as using points or tokens to unlock new learning opportunities or resources.
These insights show that autonomy and rewards are not mutually exclusive, but rather interdependent factors that can influence your motivation and learning. By understanding how they work together, you can design your own learning environment and strategy that suits your needs and aspirations.
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Blog by Dr Naeema Pasha