A Model for Motivation-Driven Assignment Design

A Model for Motivation-Driven Assignment Design

Sharon K. Andrews (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA) and Caroline M. Crawford (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4240-1.ch013
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Motivation and engagement of students within online courses is at the forefront of impediments to student success. Instructional efforts at recognizing and distinguishing both highly and lowly motivated students are typically undertaken by the engaged and motivated instructor. However, within many non-education-housed curricula efforts, instructional influences upon motivation and engagement are not explicitly designed into the course's instructional methods, in particular within the design of class assignments. This chapter will address this concern and present a model for motivation-driven assignment design along with a quick-guide for simplicity of use among non-education faculty. The model is designed to support varying motivation levels of students through enabling multiple paths for students to self-direct their learning. This model reflects the recognition of varying motivation levels of students and is supportive of student-directed learning within the engineering classroom, particularly the online classroom.
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Introduction And Background

Attitudes can be negative regarding online courses and programs but these attitudes are changing, particularly with Covid 19 resulting in online delivery taking front stage at most universities during 2020-2022 (Andrews, 2021a). As a result, elearning has been even more increasingly recognized as both necessary (Alsharhan et al., 2021; Andrews, 2021a, Andrews et al., 2021; Brown, 2019; de Souze Rodrigues et al., 2021; Farhan et al., 2018; Garcia-Penalvo, 2021; Muniasamy & Alasiry, 2020) and viable (Guadana, 2018; Hassan et al., 2021; Khyzhniak et al., 2021; Yeo et al., 2021). Recognizing that effective online course design and delivery is fundamentally important (Andrews, 2021b; Andrews et al, 2021), it is important to consider key aspects of eLearning such as motivation and engagement (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997; Parsons & Goff, 1978).

Motivation and engagement of students within online courses is at the forefront of impediments to student success in the classroom and beyond (Boru, 2018; Caruth, 2018; Erbas & Demirer, 2019; Lazarides et al., 2019; Turel & Sanal, 2018; Winter, 2018). The engaged and motivated instructor typically undertakes instructional efforts at recognizing and distinguishing both highly and lowly motivated students (Crawford et al, 2021). Such efforts obviously may cover a wide range of methods from use of formal systematic efforts to unplanned tasks suggested by a colleague. Within many university graduate programs residing outside of Education, faculty are not education experts but merely subject experts. Systematic and formal use of instruction design methods may be unheard of or far from the forefront of course design. As example, many graduate engineering course tasks are not explicitly and systematically driven from the perspective of the design’s influences upon an individual student’s level of motivation and engagement. This is the authors’ observation from over twenty years of teaching within various engineering programs at multiple universities. This is the impetus behind the model for motivation-driven assignment design that is the focus of this chapter.

The general goal of motivation-driven assignment design is to create instructional activities that support and help motivate those who are lowly motivated and to offer the highly motivated student the opportunities for reaching learning levels the student is capable of. This goal has been observed to be of increased importance within online course offerings (Andrews 2021a, 2021b; Andrews et al, 2021). Methods of recognizing motivation levels among students include self-regulatory support (Kilis & Yildirim, 2018; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2007; Tseng & Yeh, 2019; Zimmerman, 2000, 2008, 2011; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1997) as well as microassists (Crawford, 2020). Within the general goal of motivation support lies the subtext and important consideration of engagement and response. The authors present a model for instructional design that addresses motivation within an engagement and adult learning context. Observational and empirical work with the design and delivery of a software engineering program, both online and traditional, over more than 20 years, has resulted in the current definition of a theoretical model for Motivation-Driven Assignment Design (MDAD). Foundationally, this model reflects the adult learning theory of andragogy (Knowles, 1968), a well-known adult learning theory which asserts that an adult learner is one who 1) is capable of directing her or his own learning 2) has a rich set of life experiences to draw upon for learning 3) is interested in the application of new knowledge 4) is independent and self-motivated and 5) recognizes the need to respond to changing social roles. The MDAD model specifically recognizes and addresses the variance of self-motivation among adult learners. Many others have defined methods or techniques to support adults as self-directed learners (Cavaliere, 1992; Curran et al., 2019; Garrison, 1997; Knowles 1975; Morris, 2019; Morrison & McCutheon, 2019; Robinson & Persky, 2020; Tough, 1971) and adult learning in general (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2018; Knowles, 1980; Lindeman, 1926; Mukhalalati & Taylor, 2019; Schon, 1987, 1996). Self-directed learning is particularly important for adult learning and is its importance is reflected by the field of study known as andragogy. Crawford et al. (2018) describe andragogy as,

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Directed Learning: Self-directed learning is a learning method whereby the student takes initiative for learning. This includes activities such as selecting, managing, and assessing their own learning activities. Teachers provide advice, direction, and resources to support the student while peers provide collaboration.

Pedagogy: The study surrounding the profession of teaching including the study and development of teaching methods, modes of delivery, assessment methods and the underlying theories, and practices surrounding teaching.

Online Course: A university level course that is taken over the internet without the need for attendance in a physical location to access materials or the instructor. All instruction is done with the use of a computer and may include synchronous as well as asynchronous activity.

Software Development Process: A set of process steps defined by a model to direct the design and development of software. One such model is the classical waterfall model for software development that is primarily used in the development of large, life critical software. It is defined by a set of process steps that must be followed consisting of the development of a feasibility study, project plan, requirements specification, architecture design, detailed design, testing and maintenance phases. Other models exist for the design and development of software which is non-life critical and is highly market reactive and with higher priority requirements to meet delivery than long term maintenance; one such model is the Agile model for software development.

Exhibited Motivation: Exhibited motivation is a quality surrounding a person’s efforts at problem solving to task solving as demonstrated by the actions of that person that can indicate the motivation level at the point in time of the effort but could not be solely used to classify the person overall as generally being highly or lowly motivated. This is opposed to intrinsic motivation which is a reflection of a person’s general motivation level in that person’s approach to most of life’s tasks and problems as observed over a long period of time.

Requirements Specification: A term used heaving in software development to reflect the precise, non-ambiguous specification in writing of exactly what is required of the functionality of a software system. This term may also be used to reflect any specification of a set of requirements for any product though the expectations of its level of detail may vary depending on for whom the requirements are written. Many times, the term is reduced to just “Requirements.”

Heutagogy: A pedagogical term reflecting the study, development and understanding of theories, models, practices, and guidelines reflecting a student-centered approach reflect a teacher as an enabler to learning but not a primary source of knowledge. It can be described most simply as self-directed learning where the student plays the primary role in deciding what to learn and how.

Andragogy: The study surrounding the development and understanding of the educational methods, theories and practices directed to teaching adult learners.

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