The Hidden Power of Small Rewards: The Effects of Insufficient External Rewards on Autonomous Motivation to Learn
Sprache des Titels:
Rewarding students to enhance autonomous motivation to learn (i.e., intrinsic motivation and autonomous forms of extrinsic motivation) is a heavily debated topic in education studies. While previous research largely concentrated on the effects of different types of rewards on motivation, we focus on the smallness of rewards. Based on a quasi-experiment in an online learning environment, our research shows that small rewards enhance autonomous motivation. The behavioral measures used to assess autonomous and initial controlled motivation to learn suggest that a small number of bonus points increases persistence in rewarded behavior, as well as persistence and performance on nonrewarded behavior. Apart from its empirical contribution, our work also adds to the literature on this topic by integrating two previously unrelated perspectives. First, based on the concept of insufficient justification and on self-determination theory, we explain that in the case of small rewards that students perceive as inadequate justification for exerting effort, the informational aspect outweighs the controlling aspect. Our research also highlights the practical implications for online educators in that small rewards serve as a substitute for personal feedback, making it possible to achieve desirable learning outcomes in a learning context where personal interaction is limited.