|Home Page of an Engineering Design Challenge on the Curiosity Machine|
- Competence concerns the assumption that humans universally seek to control outcomes and experience mastery.
- Autonomy concerns the universal urge to be causal agents of one's own life and act in harmony with ones integrated self (though not necessarily independent of others)
- Relatedness concerns the universal want to interact, be connected with, and experience caring for others.
- Optimal challenge: SDT argues the learning opportunities should be neither too easy nor too hard. If they are too easy learners don't feel a sense of accomplishment; if they are too hard, learners will have insufficient self-efficacy to engage. What I love about the Design Challenges is that they appear to be just hard enough so that younger children need help accomplishing the challenge. More specifically, the younger children need help in using the disciplinary concepts (such as load and tension) introduced in the videos to systematically (rather than randomly) redesign their devices to accomplish the challenge.
- Offer useful performance feedback. SDT provides extensive guidelines in giving performance feedback, and it has been widely applied in the realm of classroom assessment and grading. The reason Kohn included praise in the title of his book is because of studies showing that teacher praise for behavior that is "externally-regulated" (rather than intrinsically motivated) undermines self-determination. This is one area where Iridescent might do quite a bit of refinement and research. The prior study showed the most of the feedback from virtual mentors was received by learners at least a day after they had submitted their challenge, long after the materials and devices were put away and some of the families had embarked on a new challenge. So further refinement to both the technology and practices for providing feedback to make that feedback more useful and used would be expected to improve engagement.
- Help learners relate to others. I think that Iridescent is already doing a great job with this in the way that their challenges are designed. As I elaborated in my other post, in my one opportunity to observe families completing Design Challenges it was really endearing to watch a father gently but persistently use the principle of thrust to help his daughters redesign their "spinning machines" (made of a balloon, clay, straws, and a ping pong ball). I regret that it was so noisy in the room that I could not transcribe the recording, but got to witness the younger child use that term herself in talking to her sister. From my perspective, this kind of scientific relating is what is missing in many science classrooms. While I think Iridescent's intuitions have been remarkably effective, I suspect a more systematic application of SDT might point to additional innovations that might motivate engagement. For example, right now most of the relatedness that is supported appears to be within families. It might be very helpful search for strategies to foster relatedness between families.
In the case of Iridescent, this would lead to assume that most of goals and values that motivate the children actually come from their family, while most of the goals and values that motivate the family come from that larger sociocultural context in which that family functions. At general level, this means that Iridescent's efforts to motivate should be organized in terms of communityà family à child rather than the other way around. At a more specific level this suggest the need for systematic ethnographic work that examines how the larger cultural context motivates families to engage in scientific and how families motivate their children to engage. Brigid Barron at Stanford is doing some reallyi nteresting studies in this regard and could probably have some good ideas about what this would look like around family engagement in Design Challenges. I also just discovered what looks like a really nice paper by Middleton, Dupuis, & Tang (2013) that looks very promising as well.
Greeno, J. G. (1998). The situativity of knowing, learning, and research. American Psychologist, 53(1), 5.