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How to Harness Learners’ Motivation

This was originally posted on in March 2019.

Educators, marketers, politicians, health professionals, parents, and several others who find themselves in a leadership role have spent considerable time strategizing how to motivate their workforces to learn and apply new skills. In the realm of behavioral science, researchers have come a long way from the “carrot and stick” ways of the past.

Motivation for Your Learners

Below are a couple of the latest trends in motivation that can help your learners catch the vision of your training and galvanize their performance in the workplace.

Try Asset-Based Thinking

Asset-Based Thinking was pioneered by psychologist and author Kathy Cramer, of The Cramer Institute. The general premise is that all development should start with acknowledging what learners already know, or what assets learners already have to work with.

Many of us view an issue and think, “if only I had these skills, I would have a much easier time solving this problem.” Instead, try inviting learners to take a more multi-dimensional approach. Start by thinking of how the skills they already possess could be adapted to solve the problem.

As you design your training, acknowledge what characteristics and talents your learners bring to the table and elaborate on how you plan to add to those strengths as opposed to introducing your curriculum as something totally new. When you play up your learners’ skills, you are simultaneously motivating them to build on what they know.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Growing up, we naturally segmented our abilities into good and bad categories. A lot of us graduated high school with two lists: a list of school subjects we were good at and wanted to pursue, and a list of subjects we were bad at and planned to avoid at all costs. Psychologist Carol Dweck argues that this type of fixed mindset is limiting and ultimately a misunderstanding of human intelligence.

Dweck argues that brain plasticity is actually a lot more prevalent than we realize. It’s likely that you weren’t horrible at science, but likely didn’t find the resources or give it the time you needed to build a good knowledge base. In other words, our brains can learn just about anything with the appropriate effort, but learning can require more resiliency and perseverance than we are used to.

You can incorporate the growth mindset into your course design by deliberately pointing out that failures and drawbacks are all part of the development process. It’s not to encourage learners to make mistakes, but rather to lessen the psychological consequences of a mistake made in good faith. As your learners feel less intimidated by the learning and development process, they will feel more motivated and committed to mastering your course.

Fine-tuning your own perceptions on motivation and growth can aid you in creating a vision your whole team can share. As you try out new motivation techniques, you can better determine what works best for your learners. To read more about engaging learners, visit our AllenComm blog