When learners are involved in problem-based learning (such as a game or other problem-solving activity), motivation often varies over time. Motivation tends to increase when partial success is achieved, but decreases when partial successes take too long to arrive. But how long is too long?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer since every learner is different and the tendency to remain motivated varies very widely between individuals, over time, and between contexts.
I’m currently working on a model of motivational stamina which attempts to identify some of the variables:
The challenge facing the learning designer is how to maintain engagement when learner motivation is so variable. What is an interesting task at the beginning may cease to be interesting and motivating part way through, and learner attention and commitment to the activity may be lost.
The model suggests that some early success is desirable, and also that ongoing partial successes may serve to maintain motivation. This is reminiscent of narrative techniques in popular culture, where viewer interest is maintained through a repeated cycle of raised tension and dénouement.
Left, Paul. The Motivational Stamina Model. http://www.verso.co.nz/mw/index.php?title=Learning_and_Motivation