Constructivism and Motivation: Article Review 2

Martens, R., Bastiaens, T., & Kirschner, P. A. (2007). New Learning Design in Distance Education: The impact on student perception and motivation. Distance Education, 28(1), 81-93.

This week I was looking for ideas for different applications of authentic learning – constructavist style.   I hoped to find examples in less typical disciplines than medical, emergency response, etc. During that search, I found the article “New Learning Design in Distance Education: The impact on student perception and motivation’.   I was intrigued, especially after Craig’s reference last week about motivation from ‘perceived privilege’.   This article offered a little of both topics so it was a nice fit for my current explorations.

In the article Martens, Bastiaens, and Kirschner (2007) ask if there is a difference between course designer’s perceptions and student’s perceptions of the benefits of authentic learning experiences incorporated into online classes.     They found a gap.

The article opens with a very thorough introduction.   Constructivism is defined and ten principles of constructivist educational design principles are reviewed. Next, they explore the problem course developers face in designing learning environments that incorporate these elements.   The topic then turns to motivation, with the authors stating “The effort or motivation on which constructivist e-learning environments rely is intrinsic motivation, with its associated features, such as curiosity, deep level, processing, explorative behavior, and self-regulation.’ and “The question is not if a task is authentic, interesting, or challenging, but whether it is perceived as such by students’.

The authors also warn of including elements into a course because the technology is new, fun, and shiny, so called “technological dazzle’,   rather than because of their effectiveness.   Eventually they do come to the question at hand.   How do students perceive different constructivist elements in their online courses?   Are they as motivated by them as the course designers think they are? The answer turned out to be no.   Students in two online courses at the Open University of the Netherlands “did not appreciate role-playing as much as the developers had thought they did. In their conclusion, the authors do a good job at identifying the weak points of their study and identifying areas for future research.

Overall, I learned quite a bit more from the introduction to the topic at hand than from the actual study.   The authors did a good job of describing the principles of constructivist theory and in identifying the challenges of actually applying those principles in an effective way.   I was particularly intrigued with the supplied definition of intrinsic motivation in relation to virtual classrooms.   I suspect my next article review will have me delving further in on that topic. Though I did not come away with the examples I had initially been after, when I do find them, I believe I will look at them a little more critically and perhaps more realistically.   The   warning about not incorporating technology because it is new and shiny, was especially well placed with me in leu of my affinity for embracing the dazzling technology of the moment and finding new ways to use it in order to justify the time I spend learning how.

4 thoughts on “Constructivism and Motivation: Article Review 2

  1. Hi Kim,

    Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation and associated consequences are of great interest to me. You might find these interesting as well?

    Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. (1994). Reinforcement, reward, and intrinsic motivation: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 64, 363-423.

    Deci, E., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and instrinsic movitation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.

    Moos, D. C. (2010). Nonlinear technology: Changing the conception of extrinsic motivation. Computers & Education, 55, 1640-1650.

    I can imagine there is a substantive gap. One aspect may be that instructional designers consider such activities fun, whereas participants don’t consider them fun at all. However, “fun” from an instructional designer’s standpoint is relative other types of activities, such as reading, or discussions, quizzes, papers, and exams. Students, on the other hand, are comparing the activity to other ways in which they’d like to spend time. The role playing activity isn’t fun from the students perspective, because they’re comparing it to all other potential fun activities and not just to reading, quizzes, etc…? Just a thought.

    Are there additional factors that might affect student perception? What might they be? How much do we rely on intrinsic motivation in education? Do all constructivist experiences depend on that type of motivation?

    Great topics!


  2. Thanks for the links, I do have an interest here. I see students all the time (at my day job) who have all the skills a student needs, but are taking a class for someone else’s reasons. Sometimes, that works out OK. They are able to coast along without doing too much damage to their transcript until they take the right class. The one that speaks to them and all of a sudden the motivation changes from external, to internal. Sometimes the most productive thing I can do for them is to try and figure out what interests and excites them and advise a class that might speak to those interests. See if we can get them hooked.

    I have also seen students were were in school 20 years ago come in and talk to me because they have found a reason to want to go to school. They come in because they really want to learn something or be something. They are usually the ones that wish they didn’t have to bring their 20 year old transcripts in. They were goofing off and weren’t really focused on school and are now embarrassed and have to build a new confidence that they can be successful. They generally have acquired a whole host of risk factors they didn’t have years ago too. Working full time, kids, lack of confidence, financial obligations, etc. And then they step up to the plate and overcome it all with their new internal motivation and become the hardest working, highest achieving, inspiring students in the class. All because of motivation.

    The externally motivated tend to fail or just get by without excelling despite low risk factors and the internally motivated excel despite the risk factors. Seems to me it is a good topic to be paying attention to!

    1. Hi Kim,

      Well said.

      Also, can’t talk about motivation without mentioning gamification. Another area to investigate. Effective game systems provide hooks into our inherent propensities to play and highjack our motivational energies. These systems can be very effective in education. Not for everyone, perhaps, but some people find the marriage between games and education a winning combination.

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