Posts about motivation

One of the major themes in my work of the last decade or two has been motivation and, in particular, the systemic ways that it can be distorted or broken by our educational systems. It is deeply bizarre that what is perhaps our most primal desire – to learn – can become a chore, considered unpleasant enough that we need to create rewards and punishments to coerce people into doing it, and that the institutions we create for supporting it result as often as not in people with a lifelong aversion to at least one subject. This is, arguably, the biggest problem that professional educators and learners need to solve. Much of my thinking on the subject is heavily influenced by self-determination theory and its cousins (especially Alfie Kohn’s work, and the concept of Flow), which usually provides the framing for what I have written. Here are some posts that discuss this problem and, sometimes, propose solutions.


The importance of a good opening line

New article from Gerald Ardito and me – The emergence of autonomy in intertwingled learning environments: a model of teaching and learning

Educational ends and means: McNamara’s Fallacy and the coming robot apocalypse (presentation for TAMK)




Preprint – The human nature of generative AIs and the technological nature of humanity: implications for education

Cognitive prostheses and the future of the human race




Some meandering thoughts on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ learning

Slides from my ICEEL 22 Keynote, November 20, 2022

Can GPT-3 write an academic paper on itself, with minimal human input?


Ernst & Young fined $100 million after employees cheated in exams

Solving The Wrong Problems: Why Online Education Is and Must Be Different from In-Person Education – slides from my invited talk at ICEMI 2022

English version of my 2021 paper, “Technology, technique, and culture in educational systems: breaking the iron triangle”

Brunel University’s Integrated Programme Assessment – a neat way to decouple learning and credentials



Higher Education: an Owner’s Guide – slides from my Times Higher Ed Student Festival keynote

Challenges of the Physical: slides from my keynote at XII Conferência Internacional de Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicação na Educação, September 2021

Mediaeval Teaching in the Digital Age (slides from my keynote at Oxford Brookes University, May 26, 2021)

Educational technology: what it is and how it works | AI & Society


How distance changes everything: slides from my keynote at the University of Ottawa

Joyful assessment: beyond high-stakes testing

Evaluating assessment


Mindfulness Meditation Impairs Task Motivation but Not Performance


Beyond learning outcomes

DT&L2018 spotlight presentation: The Teaching Gestalt


Addicted to learning or addicted to grades?

Study links student cheating to whether a course is popular or disliked

Infants make more attempts to achieve a goal when they see adults persist

Highly praised children are more inclined to cheat

Not true: coding bootcamps you can take online are an “oxymoron” no one has yet solved

Strategies for successful learning at AU

Professor Jon Dron | Beyond Busy

Our educational assessment systems are designed to create losers

Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Alfie Kohn: “It’s bad news if students are motivated to get A’s” – YouTube



The cost of admission to the unlearning zone

Demotivating students with participation grades


Understanding the response to financial and non-financial incentives in education: Field experimental evidence using high-stakes assessments

‘Rote learning, not play, is essential for a child’s education’ – seriously?

Activity trackers flop without cash motivation – Futurity

Recording of my TCC2016 keynote: The Distributed Teacher

Research reveals the dark side of wearable fitness trackers

Learning and the Kardashians




Cheerful to a Fault: “Positive” Practices with Negative Implications – Alfie Kohn

Over two dozen people with ties to India’s $1-billion exam scam have died mysteriously in recent months

Exam focus damaging pupils’ mental health, says NUT – BBC News

The death of the exam: Canada is at the leading edge of killing the dreaded annual ‘final’ for good | National Post

Smart learning – a new approach or simply a new name? | Smart Learning

How Do You Motivate Kids To Stop Skipping School?

The new axis of evil — Canada: One third of American 8th graders think we live in a dictatorship

Why do we not ban use of cellphones in online learning?

Hacking Our Brains: Motivating Others By Snatching Back Rewards

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation





Multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets

Good chapter on getting rid of grades




What exams have taught me