How do I become a constant learner

Motivation in learning: If it is there, it is gone

Most trainers can only dream of learner groups in which all participants are permanently motivated. Usually there are a few learners who need an extra dose of motivation. Often the motivation also depends on the learner's form of the day and even on the time of day - for many learners, for example, the following applies: "A full stomach doesn't like studying." Such participants first disappear after the lunch break in the low motivation.

And then many late risers find it much more difficult to be receptive in the morning than the early risers among the learners - while the late afternoon and evening are again not a good time for the larks to study.

Motivation can increase or decrease within a short period of time

But learner motivation is evidently subject to even more extreme fluctuations than was previously known. This is suggested by the results of a study by the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU), which are published in the current issue of the specialist magazine "Learning & Instruction". According to this, the motivation of the learner can decrease and increase significantly even in a very limited period of one and a half hours.

"It is well known that motivation is an important factor for learning and performance. However, previous research has remained relatively general," says co-study author Julia Dietrich from the University of Jena, explaining the starting point of the - not representative - study. Previous studies have primarily recorded how motivated people are in general and what drives them. "So far, however, there has not been any investigation into the level of motivation of the individual within a specific, time-limited learning situation, for example a lecture or lesson," says the psychologist.

Students provide snapshots of their motivation

To check this, the scientists asked 155 Jena student teachers to provide snapshots of their motivation three times over a semester within 90-minute lectures. To do this, they had to answer questions that were always the same in ten lectures in "Educational Psychology" using their smartphones or on paper.

Among other things, the motivation researchers wanted to know from the students how competent they felt at the moment, whether they understood the facts or whether they found them to be exhausting. It was also asked whether they enjoyed the course content and found it useful.

Learners experience motivation and demotivation in 90 minutes

When evaluating the results, the researchers found that the motivation of the learners fluctuated far more strongly in the 90 minutes than they had assumed. So every single participant would have experienced phases of high motivation and strong demotivation in the lecture - completely independent of the time of the other students.

"Interests are of course person-specific. So far we have at least not been able to identify any systematic trends such as certain materials or topics where everyone's motivation has increased or decreased," reports Dietrich. "The causes of the fluctuations will have to be examined more closely in the future in order to make learning contexts more motivating overall."

The higher the effort, the higher the motivation

The study was able to show another connection: that motivation and effort are closely linked in learning. The more you try, the higher your motivation, the study authors conclude. And vice versa, the same applies: "Those who are motivated also work harder," explains Dietrich.

Looking at the results of the study, the scientists advise the trainers to be aware that every situation and every moment counts when learning: Lecturers could lose learners at any time if they stand in front of them, but they can also bring them back.

They also recommend their method of letting the learners give continuous feedback while they are learning: This way, they could evaluate changed content or new methods immediately instead of evaluating them with questionnaires at the end.

Face recognition reveals who is sleeping during class

These findings mean a challenge for lecturers even when it comes to classroom programs. With virtual trainings and seminars, however, it is even more difficult for them to keep an eye on the motivation of the learner.

The journalist and MBA expert Bärbel Schwertfeger presents an approach for how this can be achieved in the 05/2017 issue of "Personalmagazin" (you can download the issue here as an app): the IE Business School's "Wow" room. The virtual classroom on the IE campus in Madrid is equipped with 48 screens on a total area of ​​45 square meters, which are arranged in a U-shape and allow a 200-degree view. The professor stands in the room and sees up to 60 students sitting somewhere in the world on the screens.

So that the professor does not lose the virtually connected students during the lecture, the developers of the "Wow" room have come up with something special: the emotions of the students are recorded using facial recognition software. If the values ​​drop below a specified level, a red frame appears around the student's picture and signals to the professor that he is not currently doing the job.

For further reading: You can find out more about the "Wow" room and trends around the topic of "Online MBA" in the article "Online will be the new premium" in issue 05/2017 of "Personalmagazin". (You can download the issue as an app here.)