Motivation to learn involves the learner’s willingness to engage in learning, exert effort, and persist in learning tasks. Strong motivation can lead to deeper learning, which is important for transfer because students’ depth of prior knowledge is a predictor of transfer (Perkins & Salomon, 1992; see Zusho, Anthony, Hashimoto, & Robertson, this volume). To motivate and foster in-depth learning, instructional designers could leverage the inherent appeal of video games. Good teachers introduce new lessons by motivating students and setting up expectations that the subject matter and skills to be taught will be interesting and worth learning. Video games could do this, too, and they often do this, by offering game challenges and story lines that make learning relevant, intensify interest, engage depth of processing, and increase participation (Gee, 2009; Lieberman, 2006; Lieberman & Linn, 1991; Shute & Ke, 2012). Emotion plays an important role in motivation. Research on the role of emotion in learning has found that it can capture attention and enhance memory (Baranowski, Buday, Thompson, & Baranowski, 2008; Pugh & Bergin, 2006). When coupled with appropriate instructional support, video games have the potential to engage, both cognitively and emotionally, even the most reluctant learners (Garris, Ahlers, & Driskell, 2002).

A video game could be designed to motivate students to learn and it could also show them how the material could be applied usefully in a variety of venues—to prime students with the notion that what they are about to learn will be transferable and applicable in a variety of tasks and settings. A game that is engaging, fun, and emotionally involving, and that lets students experiment with the subject matter in various virtual settings, could potentially enhance their interest and engagement in classroom-based learning and also show them how their knowledge can be transferred to new tasks and environments in and outside the classroom.

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