Thursday, 19 July 2012

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Educational Games

Sorry for the wait. I was asked to do a guest blog for TedxAmsterdamED and felt quite honored : )

Today I want to show a bit of my academic skillset. As part of my study I've build a survey for children to measure motivation towards arithmetic and an arithmetic game to look at the correlation between those factors. To build the survey I've devoured hundreds of pages of research on motivation.

Motivation towards a certain action exists out of at least two parts. Intrinsic motivation; motivated to act because a certain action like arithmetic simply gives you joy. Extrinsic motivation; motivated to act because of external rewards. Generally we perform actions better if intrinsically motivated.

Intrinsic motivation is mostly viewed as a better form of motivation.  Lepper, Corpus and Iyengar (2005) add that both forms of motivation can add to your overall motivation to act, motivation to play a game for example. Extrinsic motivation should not be used to much though because that can even influence intrinsic motivation negatively.

There have been multiple surveys that try to measure intrinsic motivation like the Intrinsic Motivation Index. Lepper et all. (2005) have chosen to measure both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is measured with questions on "a desire for challenging (school)work", "general curiosity towards school" and "a desire to complete work indepent". Extrinsic motivation is measured with questions on "a desire for easy work", "desire to please the teacher" and "a desire to get help from the teacher". The interesting thing is that only desire for easy work and a desire for challenging work correlate negatively. The other two dimensions of extrinsic motivation don't correlate.

Well what can you do with this?
For my internship I've translated and rephrased the scales to use is specifically for educational games and learning specific knowledge domains like arithmetic or language. It's possible to use surveys like this to show scientifically that your product enhances motivation and follow motivation over a longer period of time. Hopefully it's even possible to correlate motivation to play an arithmetic game and to learn arithmetic.

Next time I'll write something on profiling a game to compare it with other games.


Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 97(2), pp.184–196.

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