Tag Archives: motivation

One Size Fits All…Not

Originally posted by Rochelle Diogenes on Acrobatiq.

Adaptive learning is a key strategy in higher education today (see previous blog, What’s A Seventeen-Year-Old to Do?). Research shows that online courseware based on personal learning data has increased success for diverse students. It’s clear that in education one “size” does not fit all.

While this research and practice has made an impression on me, others continue to debate the pros and cons of tailoring programs to individual learner needs.  Looking for more confirmation, I found a study that underscores the need for a non-uniform approach from a source outside of education.

A recent BuzzFeed article, This Is What “One Size Fits All” Actually Looks Like on All Body Types, describes the results of a test on consumer reaction to the trend towards replacing delineated sizing such as 10, 12, 18, with clothing in one size that companies advertise will fit everyone or as one company says, “most.’

In Buzzfeed’s experiment, they asked five young women, sized 0-18, to try on samples of the same outfit produced as “one size” to compare how they fit. BuzzFeed showed their results through photos and the participants’ comments.

The outcomes of the fittings in terms of physical appearance could be anticipated. A skirt only fit on one leg of half the women. One shirt looked like a dress on others. Clearly, to fit physically, the clothes had to be altered to individual characteristics.

What was surprising was the women’s comments on how the general experience affected them psychologically. It wasn’t just about how they looked. They all talked about how the experience made them feel. I took the liberty of substituting education phrases in a representative response [original wording appears in brackets]:

Allison [size 0]: “There’s clearly no such thing as one size fits all! Everyone has a different way of learning [shape], and higher education [clothing stores] should embrace that instead of making people feel shitty for not being able to succeed [fit] following what they deem to be a universal learning pathway [size]. ‘One size fits all’ sends a message that if you don’t  learn successfully in their programs,[fit into the clothing], whether it’s too advanced [big] or too slow-paced [small], you’re not ‘normal,’ and leads to all sorts of feelings of [body] dissatisfaction with how smart you are and how successful you can be.” 

Kind of eerie that the message for clothing and education can be the same. Yes, education is more complicated; you can’t look in a mirror to see how a course fits you, but over time you will feel the psychological effects of the right or wrong fit in a course.

Which brings us back to why we should continue to move towards adaptive and personalized learning online and in the classroom: these strategies put learning in a context that supports all students without stigmatizing them for starting at different levels or coming from diverse backgrounds. And, a positive environment motivates learning.

As Lara [size 4/6] says: “We’re all different, so the idea of ‘one size’ for all of us is just absurd. Different minds [bodies], unite!”

Gamification and Education

I recently completed an excellent Coursera MOOC on gamification taught by Professor Kevin Werbach, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. Gamification is the art of applying gaming principles to business, education, fitness, basically any area that is not about simply playing a game.

Both gaming principles and education involve motivation. Motivation is something internal (drive, need, craving) or external (environment, stimuli, rewards) that pushes us to action. Motivation moves us from one psychological or physical state to another usually to enjoy a positive feeling.

Hunger motivates us to get something to eat. Loneliness motivates us to connect with people. Not knowing motivates us to learn. However, it’s not that simple. If you are hungry, but it seems too hard to cook a healthy meal, you might settle for a bag of chips. If you are lonely, but are too shy to make friends, you might not do anything to relieve your loneliness. If you don’t know how to work Smart TV, and there’s a complicated explanation in a pamphlet, you may just give up.

Gamification can boost motivation through digital delivery. If you have an app that keeps track of your food intake, sends you quick healthy recipes, and so forth, you will be more motivated to skip the chips and cook. If you can be social on-line, you will be motivated to reach out. If you can just push a button on your remote to give you instructions, you are more likely to learn.

With digital programs we have the opportunity to motivate more students to learn whether through personalized learning or systems that make it easier and more fulfilling to achieve. Digital formats have already made it more appealing to complete assessments by offering instant feedback on whether students have answered correctly.

There is a lot to learn from gaming without turning every lesson into a game. The first step is to think holistically. Amy Jo Kim, CEO, Shufflebrain, says that good game designers think about the player’s whole journey, both cognitive and emotional: “A player’s [student’s] journey is their experience/progression over time.”

Not only do students bring their cultural, economic, and cognitive experiences to the learning environment, they also bring their digital prowess. A student today starts school using digital products. Exciting digital elements that work well in elementary school may not resonate in later grades.

There is also the journey through the particular program, how the student will progress and connect to the content between the beginning and the end. Some programs are very formulaic such as video/reading content/activity/quiz. The same format that motivates students in Chapter 1 may not in Chapter 10.

Game designers take into account Richard Bartle’s four types of users: Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers, and Killers when creating games. Do these categories hold true for student users? Frankly, we don’t know, but we have resources in place that can help us find out. Much of EdTech’s focus has been to develop programs that produce data profiles of individual students to inform short-term formative strategies and summative outcomes. If we collaborate, we can aggregate individual student data to discern types of digital students. This type of analysis will help us chart successful education journeys.