Jobsandcareer.com organizes the most comprehensive job and career advice/news.
Lots of readers of my entry on learning languages have said that the only reason I learned French well the second time (with the Assimil course) is that I was motivated. Here is one example: “Guy, the main reason that you learned French this time was because you wanted to learn it this time.”
Understanding the role of motivation in learning is important for designing productive learning environments — i.e. for learning well — so I would like to discuss it further.
Yes, motivation is important for learning! When I was in high school and training for the U.S. Physics Olympiad team, we heard (maybe apocryphal) stories about how our counterparts were being trained in the USSR: Candidates who didn’t make the cut got sent to the army. This kind of motivation, I thought, would definitely lead me to put in the needed hours.
To agree with the readers’ comments more strongly: For learning, motivation is necessary. However, there is a distinction between necessary and sufficient. Although motivation is necessary, it is not sufficient.
First I’ll give you an example from my own experience; then I’ll discuss a key research result from the study of expertise.
Myself, I’ve long tried to improve at chess. I learned the game from my mother when I was 3. My family tells of an uncle who had come to visit a few years later and was happy to find a 6-year-old keen on having a chess game. After I had won, I consoled him by saying, “If you want to win, you should play my dad.” One conclusion is that I was a little brat. The other is that I’d had lots of time to learn chess. And I was motivated. Sadly, at age 42, my chess skill is not much higher than when I was 6, despite lots of motivation and lots...