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Intrinsic Motivation and Play for Learning

Humans have a natural instinct for play, and it can be a powerful trigger of intrinsic motivations. Unfortunately, traditional “school” relies more on less-effective extrinsic motivations of rewards and punishments, and the resulting student behavior leads some faculty members to bemoan the lack of intellectual curiosity in many of their students. If one searches for ways to tap into intrinsic motivation, games almost immediately come to mind; games are designed tools for getting people to play.

Faculty members can become their own coursework game designers—with or without computers. Often, the first interactive teaching tool we think of is a computer game that is little more than a thinly-disguised video lecture with multiple choice responses. The games this faculty learning community will consider, however, involve intrinsic motivation and play first and foremost. While a computer might (or might not) be involved, it is not about computers.  While information will be communicated, it is not about a lecture. Think instead of the key terms of intrinsic motivation: competence, autonomy, relatedness. Learn to entice your students to work harder, through play.

To explore these issues, the members of this Faculty Learning Community will investigate intrinsic motivation and the ability of games to encourage students to demand more of themselves.

What Is the Intrinsic Motivation and Play for Learning FLC?

This FLC will be facilitated by Alice Kendrick (Advertising).  Members will learn together about intrinsic motivation. Their study will include the connections between the mechanics of games and play and principles of engaged learning.  In addition to cognitive theories about motivational strategies, the group will consider an array of games, from traditional board and card games to examples like Galaxy Zoo and Games for Change to see how a focus on intrinsic motivation can unlock massive behavioral energy. It will look at the ways in which games involving simulations and role plays can lead to deeper learning. Takeaways for group members will come in the form of simple techniques that can be used right now for gradually raising the engagement level of students in current classes.

The possibilities are vast, but here are some examples of the kinds of things that group members might explore:

  •  An arts entrepreneurship professor creates a game in which students role play the relationships among artists, record labels, and consumers and experience the economic realities of the music industry.
  • A biology professor challenges the class to design games that simulate aspects of cell division, DNA replication, and cancer. Designing the game encourages the students to think deeply about how to represent biological processes.
  • A business professor sets up an extended simulation in which students compete for venture capital to fund their start-up companies. This type of situated activity helps students put content knowledge to work.
  • A sociology professor involves students in a poverty simulation. By taking on the roles of people whose situations may differ from theirs, those students gain a greater understanding of and empathy for people living in poverty.

Responsibilities of FLC members

FLC members will be required to attend and actively participate in all twice-a-month meetings. Each member will design a game to be used in one of his or her own courses. The FLC will submit a preliminary report by January 31, 2014 on the results from their fall 2013 semester discussions and findings.  Additionally, FLC members will be asked to share their work with the SMU teaching community in some way to be determined in consultation with CTE. Finally, FLC members will be asked to complete a short survey at the end of the project about their experience in the FLC. A full FLC report will be due on May 31, 2014.

If you have questions about this FLC, contact the Center for Teaching Excellence cte@smu.edu.

Members of this FLC for 2013-14

In addition to the facilitator, the members are:

Ann Batenburg (Simmons/Teaching & Learning)
Tony Cuevas (Guildhall)
Andrew Greenwood (Music)
Blake Hackler (Meadows/Theater) (Fall 2013)
George Holden (Dedman/Psychology)

 

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