Authentic Learner Profiling Based on Human Drives and Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations

Authentic Learner Profiling Based on Human Drives and Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1573-0.ch002


An “authentic” learner is one who is true to their core identity through their expressions and actions in the world. What informs this authenticity includes various sources, from both nature (biology) and nurture (socio-cultural factors, social experiences, and personality), and others. An important part of learner effort in a learning context comes from an individual's own (1) internal drives and (2) intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, as expressed in a particular context. Ideally, people express their authentic (learning) selves fully (within reasonable constraints). This work summarizes some of the research literature on human drives and motivations and analyzes how these may be understood per learner and what these may mean for the design of teaching and learning.
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Review Of The Literature

In this context, the teaching and learning is understood as temporal and fleeting, while the learner is persistent and long-term. Ideally, the fleeting and impermanent designed learning experience should not negatively shut down learning for the learner, who is developing a sense of his / her true or authentic self. The learning experience should not conflict with the learners’ sense of personal well-being but align with it. What is meant by human well-being?

One researcher defined six factors for psychological well-being in adult life, including “self-acceptance, purpose in life, environmental mastery, positive relationships, autonomy, (and) personal growth” (Ryff, Aug. 1995, p. 100). A follow-on research study found that needs vary based on age differences and time-of-life (Ryff & Keyes, 1995). Their provision conclusion: “there is more to being well than feeling happy and satisfied with life” (Ryff & Keyes, 1995, p. 725).

It is thought that people gravitate towards things that satisfy “biological and psychological needs” and “personal interests” (Harsanyi, 1997, p. 129). There are “reasoned and unreasoned preferences” (Harsanyi, 1997, p. 129). The desire is not for the “illusion” of a thing but its reality or the “actual occurrence” (Harsanyi, 1997, p. 131). Two basic instinctive drives include “hunger and curiosity” (Harsanyi, 1997, p. 133), both of which are necessary for survival. People pursue “good things” in life, including the following: “Material comfort; physical security; freedom to control our own lives; good health; a job suitable for our personal abilities and interests; deep personal relations in mutual love, in marriage, and in true friendship; to have children and to be a good parent; to achieve better understanding of the world and of our place in the world; enjoyment of beauty in nature and in art; to have worthwhile accomplishments of some kind; and to make our own behavior consisditent with our moral values” (Harsanyi, 1997, p. 139). Preferences of the good life depends on “personal interests,” with the author explaining: “Even the friendship of a very fine human being will be of little value to us if we have absolutely no common interests with him or her” (Harsanyi, 1997, p. 141). People require animating intrinsic motivations to take actions.

The study of human well-being originates from two traditions, the “hedonic” (dating to the Cyrenaics) or pleasure-seeking approach (with a focus on positive affect and the absence of negative), and the “eudaimonic” (Aristotle; Waterman 1993) or self-expressive and self-actualizing process of each person’s internal “daimon” or “true nature” expressed in life based on “living well or actualizing one’s human potentials” (Deci & Ryan, 2008, p. 1) and “one’s virtuous potentials” (p. 2), with both approaches involving individual subjective senses of well-being. The first approach seems somewhat more instinctual and sensory, and the latter seems more about human sense-making and self-expressed personhood, based in part on principles and values. One of the earlier thinkers contributing to the idea of eudaimonic pursuits is Aristotle, who is quoted as follows:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dialectical Thinking: Ability to see issues from multiple perspectives; ability to reconcile contradictory information.

Mandala: An artful circular expression of an individual’s self-meaning-making for an authentic self-unified self (in various modalities and forms).

Frustration: Annoyance at being thwarted from achieving a particular objective or aim or lack of fulfillment (especially in a context of expectancy).

Autonomy Orientation: A person’s tendency towards being self-determining and self-willed (with an internal locus of control).

Instinctive Drive: Universal or inherent drives in humans, such as hunger and curiosity.

Psychological Ownership: A sense of responsibility over a particular objective or project.

Autonomy Support: The provision of opportunities for others to act in self-governing and self-determined ways.

Psychological Safety: A social belief that interpersonal risk-taking is justified (without potential risk of ego harm).

Psycho-Pedagogical Theory: A class of theories that combine psychological research and pedagogy (the art and science of teaching).

Amotivation: The absence of motivation, resulting in non-regulated, non-purposive, and unintentional behaviors.

Disposition: Long-term temperament and psychological habits of mind.

Drive: Core human motivations, reasons for taking certain actions.

Psychological Needs: Individual human requirements for “autonomy, competence, and relatedness” based on self-determination theory (SDT).

Psychological Well-Being: A subjective and personal sense of satisfaction with life, lived in alignment with one’s true self.

Motivation: Underlying will or reasons to engage in particular actions, leading to purposeful and directed actions.

Eudaimonic: Well-being (not ill-being), happiness achieved through the true expression of the self (from an ego perspective) as a process; joy from personal meaning and self-realization of one’s own true nature (or “daimon”).

Authenticity: The state of being genuine or “real.”

Transient Authenticity: A temporary sense of real motivations in a particular fleeting context.

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