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USING AN INNOVATIVE PEDAGOGICAL APPROACH TO CREATE AND
ENHANCE INTRINSIC MOTIVATION TO STIMULATE LEARNING
Siew H. Chan
Washington State University, Department of Accounting, Pullman, WA 99164-4729
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 509-335-5723
Laurie E. Hays
Western Michigan University, Department of Accountancy, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5402
E-mail: email@example.com; Phone: 269-387-5749
Washington State University, Department of Accounting, Pullman, WA 99164-4729
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 509-335-8541
The purpose of this study is to employ an innovative pedagogical approach with educational
computer game features to create and enhance intrinsic motivation to stimulate learning.
Individuals are intrinsically motivated when they engage in an activity under specific conditions
for the satisfaction inherent in the behavior . To create different levels of intrinsic
motivation, participants were assigned to three different treatment conditions. That is, they used
a computer program named PATH (Principles Aren’t That Hard), WebCT, or the traditional
medium (i.e., paper) to work on their homework assignments. Our empirical evidence provides
support for all our hypotheses.
Keywords: intrinsic motivation, educational computer game, PATH, learning, performance
A key conclusion from the 2005 National Summit on Educational Games is that powerful
features of computer games can facilitate high quality education by providing individuals with
practical skills, training them in complex decision-making to attain high quality performance,
showing how experts approach problems, and promoting team-building. The features (e.g., cues,
prompts, hints, and partial solutions) in computer games and simulations assist learners to
progress through learning until they are proficient in navigating their learning path. Another
unique characteristic of computer games is its infinite patience in offering the learners countless
opportunities to keep trying to attain improved performance. Therefore, it is imperative that
designers incorporate features of the educational computer games into the learning materials to
obtain enhanced outcome effects such as learning and performance.
BACKGROUND LITERATURE AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT
A powerful feature of computer game and simulation is the user’s experience of flow when a
task is sufficiently challenging to be interesting but not too demanding to cause frustration 
. Another unique feature is the user’s interaction with the system      .
Interfaces that reduce cognitive effort or present some challenge to make the task interesting
increase the user’s experience of flow in system usage while easy interfaces that lack challenge
can undermine the user’s interest in the task . Experience of flow is predicted to be higher for
the PATH group who use a system with interest-enhancing features (e.g., interesting computer
simulation, high degree of user interaction with the system, appealing interface design, and
immediate feedback) than for the WebCT group who use a system with limited interest-
enhancing features. Experience of flow may be almost non-existent for the control group who
use the traditional medium (i.e., paper). Our intrinsic motivation measure is a critical construct
because the users’ experience of flow results from their usage of PATH or WebCT (i.e., system)
or the traditional medium. This leads to the first pair of hypotheses:
H1a: The PATH group will be more intrinsically motivated than the WebCT and control
H1b: The WebCT group will be more intrinsically motivated than the control group.
The linear format and lack of interest-enhancing features in the traditional medium may
undermine the individuals’ intrinsic motivation and this can in turn impair their evaluation of the
instructor, perceived competence for learning, and comprehension of the materials. Thus:
H2: Individuals with high intrinsic motivation will evaluate their instructor more favorably
(H2a), report higher competence for learning (H2b), and report better comprehension of
the materials (H2c) than individuals with low intrinsic motivation.
The experience of flow and decreased cognitive effort for learning can enhance interest in
accounting and intention to major in accounting. Although WebCT does not have the features
inherent in PATH, WebCT can be considered as a system. As such, participants who use WebCT
may demonstrate higher interest in accounting and greater intention to major in accounting than
those who use the traditional medium. This leads to the next pair of hypotheses:
H3: Individuals with high intrinsic motivation will report higher interest in accounting (H3a)
and be more likely to choose accounting as their major (H3b) than individuals with low
Individuals experience interest when their needs and desires are integrated with the activity.
From this perspective, interest is the driving mechanism for all actions, including cognitive
activity . Based on this reasoning process, we theorize that high interest in accounting leads
to greater intention to major in accounting. Therefore,
H3c: Individuals with high interest in accounting are more likely to choose accounting as their
major than individuals with low interest in accounting.
The next hypothesis examines whether the positive relationship between intrinsic motivation and
intention to major in accounting is strengthened by the presence of a mediator – interest in
H3d: The relationship between intrinsic motivation and intention to major in accounting is
strengthened by interest in accounting.
Experience of autonomy  , choice , and cognitive stimulation from a task  are
important elements of intrinsic motivation. Although users may be required to use a system to
perform a given task, they may experience autonomy and choice in the extent of usage of the
system to perform their task. Cognitive stimulation from a task can arise from the interest that
users derive from engaging in a set of activities in a given task . Individuals may perceive an
interesting task as more cognitively stimulating than a less interesting task. The significant role
of intrinsic motivation on system usage is evident from findings reported by prior research 
    . Further, the central tenet of a task is engagement in a set of activities for
a purpose . The literature on the impact of task characteristics on work performance  
  indicates a need for identifying factors that affect an employee’s motivation to do a
task. Research in psychology has shown that higher levels of intrinsic motivation result in greater
willingness to spend time on a task . We theorize that individuals with high intrinsic
motivation will report increased usage of the materials and perceive that use of the materials via
their respective media will improve their performance  . The next pair of hypotheses
H4: Compared to individuals with low intrinsic motivation, individuals with high intrinsic
motivation will report higher usage (H4a) and improved performance (H4b) from using the
materials delivered via their respective media.
Prior research has demonstrated that high levels of intrinsic motivation lead to improved 
  and high quality  performance. Indeed, the quality of performance is a function of
the users’ extent of usage of their respective media. Since participants are required to use their
respective media to complete their homework, examination of usage of the delivery media as a
mediator can provide additional insight into the relationship between intrinsic motivation and
performance. The following hypothesis states that:
H4c: The relationship between intrinsic motivation and performance is mediated by usage of the
The effort heuristic suggests that individuals perceive a positive relationship between the effort
(i.e., time, physical exertion, pain or money) that they invest in an activity and their evaluation of
the outcome of their effort      . While effort can be used to signal quality,
like all heuristics, the effort heuristic may lead to errors        .
Kruger et al. (2004) conducted a study to demonstrate how effort is used as a heuristic for quality
even in the situation where the work is produced by another person rather than oneself. The
results showed that participants evaluated the painting more favorably when they thought that
more effort was invested in the work. In addition, perceived effort mediates the relationship
between time and perceived quality . We predict that increased usage of the materials
delivered via the individuals’ respective media leads to the perception that such usage will
improve performance. Thus,
H5: Individuals who report high usage of the materials delivered via their respective media will
perceive that usage of such materials improve their performance.
The Technology Acceptance Model  models intention to use a system as being influenced by
a user’s behavioral beliefs of perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of the system. We
theorize that materials delivered via a system are perceived to be easier to use than materials
delivered via the traditional medium. In contrast, perceived ease of use of materials delivered via
the traditional medium is low because of high perceived effort in using the materials associated
with the linear presentation format of paper delivery. Therefore,
H6a: Perceived ease of use will be higher for materials delivered via a system than the traditional
Although intrinsic motivation is modeled as an antecedent to perceived ease of use, perceived
ease of use may have an effect on intrinsic motivation. Indeed, the motivational model for
technology acceptance identifies intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation as the critical
drivers of intention or behavior, and the model includes perceived ease of use as an antecedent to
intrinsic motivation  . The next hypothesis suggests that:
H6b: Perceived ease of use of the materials delivered via the respective media will lead to
higher intrinsic motivation.
We extend the motivational model to provide additional insight into the relationship between
perceived ease of use and usage of the materials delivered via the media by including intrinsic
motivation as a mediator. Finally,
H6c: The relationship between perceived ease of use and use of the materials delivered via the
media is strengthened by intrinsic motivation.
The one-semester long experimental study involved a set of homework materials required for the
introductory accounting course delivered via the following media: PATH, WebCT, or the
traditional medium. We assigned two sections of the introductory accounting course to PATH,
one section to WebCT, and one section to the traditional medium. Thus, 87, 46 and 40
participants respectively worked on the homework assignments via PATH, WebCT, and the
traditional medium. The ten homework assignments were in the format of multiple-choice
questions. While PATH provided immediate feedback, WebCT showed the correct answers,
incorrect answers, and explanations at the end of each assignment. Feedback and explanations
were absent for the paper group.
Except for the delivery media for the homework materials, participants received identical
instruction and materials from the same instructor. On the first day of class, the instructor
informed the participants that the purpose of our study was to examine how students learned the
course materials. The instructor assured the participants that the study would not affect their
work during the semester. The instructor also informed them that all the consent forms would be
kept in a sealed envelope and analysis of the data would not commence until after all the final
course grades had been submitted to the registrar’s office. Participants then completed a 10-item
questionnaire assessing their prior knowledge in accounting. Next, they completed a
questionnaire that collected data on their computer proficiency, demographic information, and
questions pertaining to their interest in accounting and prior exposure to PATH. On the last day
of class, the participants completed a questionnaire containing (1) the intrinsic motivation scales;
(2) questions evaluating the course and instructor; and (3) assessment of their interest in
DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
We modified the 22-item intrinsic motivation scale developed by Deci, Ryan and their
colleagues to fit the context of our study. The intrinsic motivation scale has been used in several
studies      . It comprises four sub-scales: interest/enjoyment, perceived
choice, perceived competence, and pressure/tension. We modified three items in the perceived
choice sub-scale to derive an additional construct – perceived choice of the extent of usage of the
delivery media – to provide additional insight into our findings. While use of the delivery media
is mandatory, the extent of usage of the media is voluntary. Perceived choice of usage is a unique
construct that facilitates understanding on voluntary use of the delivery media. The perceived
competence for learning   and the instructor evaluation scales each has four items. The
Cronbach's ? of 0.85, 0.91, and 0.85 respectively for intrinsic motivation, perceived competence
for learning, and evaluation of the instructor are above the recommended criterion . The
scores for the two-item comprehension of the materials scale were averaged to test H2c. The
two-item perceived ease of use construct was used to test hypothesis 6.
H1a and H1b investigate the types of delivery media effective for enhancing intrinsic motivation.
The main effect of the treatment conditions on intrinsic motivation is significant (F(2,143)=12.53,
p=0.000). The planned contrast comparisons also reveal that the PATH group exhibited the
highest intrinsic motivation (mean=5.05). The average intrinsic motivation score for the PATH
group is 0.29 (t=2.13, p=0.036) higher than the average intrinsic motivation score for the WebCT
group, and 0.77 (t=4.79, p=0.000) higher than that of the control group. The average intrinsic
motivation score for the WebCT group is 0.48 (t=2.88, p=0.005) higher than that of the control
group. Thus, H1a and H1b are supported.
The multivariate test results provide support for H2a, H2b and H2c (Wilk’s ?=0.599,
F(3,127)=28.34, p=0.000). Intrinsic motivation has a significant effect on the participants’
evaluation of the instructor (F(1,129)=57.76, p=0.000). Participants with high intrinsic motivation
also reported high perceived competence for learning (F(1,129)=44.66, p=0.000), and a high level
of understanding of the materials (F(1,129)=83.37, p=0.000).
Consistent with H3a and H3b, intrinsic motivation has a significant effect on interest in
accounting (?=0.44, SE=0.19, t=5.52, p=0.000) and intention to major in accounting (? =0.22,
SE=0.21, t=2.53, p=0.013). That is, individuals with high interest in accounting were more likely
to choose accounting as their major than individuals with low interest in accounting. The results
of a mediation analysis   indicate the full mediation effect of interest in accounting on the
relationship between intrinsic motivation and intention to major in accounting. Interest in
accounting has a significant effect on intention to major in accounting (? =0.70, SE=0.076,
t=9.46, p=0.000) and this supports H3c. The mediation analysis also supports H3d. Intrinsic
motivation has a reduced and non-significant on intention to major in accounting, after
controlling for interest in accounting (?=-0.08, SE=0.18, t=-1.13, p=0.263). Therefore, interest in
accounting is a dominant mediator. The Sobel test  indicates a significant indirect effect of
intrinsic motivation on intention to major in accounting (z=4.77, p=0.000).
The multivariate results indicate significant main effects for the delivery media (Wilk’s ?=0.60,
F(2, 278)=7.79, p=0.000) and intrinsic motivation (Wilk’s ?=0.81, F(2,139)=46.46, p=0.000) on
reported usage of the materials and perceived usage of such materials on performance. Further,
intrinsic motivation has a significant effect on reported usage of the materials (? =0.37, SE=0.17,
t=4.74, p=0.000) and perceived usage of such materials on performance (?=0.48, SE=0.15,
t=6.52, p=0.000). Both the multivariate and univariate results provide strong support for H4a and
H4b. The partial mediation results for H4c suggest that reported usage of the delivery media
mediates the relationship between intrinsic motivation and perceived performance. Reported
usage of the delivery media has a significant impact on perceived performance (B=0.24,
SE=0.07, t=3.08, p=0.002). The Sobel test reveals a significant indirect effect of intrinsic
motivation on perceived performance (z=2.59, p=0.009). Thus, H4c is supported.
The effect of reported usage of the delivery media on perceived performance is significant
(F(1,142)=24.98, p=0.000). Since the control group reported highest usage of the traditional
medium, they perceived their performance to be higher than did the PATH and WebCT groups.
These results support H5.
The PATH group reported higher perceived ease of use (2.23, p=0.000) than the control group.
The WebCT group also reported higher perceived ease of use (2.38, p=0.000) than the control
group. The PATH and WebCT groups did not report significant difference in perceived ease of
use. The results provide support for H6a. The significant effect of perceived ease of use on
intrinsic motivation (F(1,144)= 91.73, p=0.000) supports H6b. We conducted a mediation analysis
to test H6c. Perceived ease of use has a significant impact on intrinsic motivation (?=0.62,
SE=0.04, t=9.58, p=0.000) and reported usage of the delivery media (?=0.18, SE=0.10, t=2.22,
p=0.028). Further, intrinsic motivation has a significant effect on reported usage of the delivery
media (?=0.42, SE=0.22, t=4.19, p=0.000). The effect of perceived ease of use on reported usage
of the delivery media is reduced almost to zero and is not significant, after controlling for
intrinsic motivation (?=-0.08, SE=0.12, t=-0.78, p=0.435). Therefore, intrinsic motivation is a
dominant mediator and these results support H6c. The Sobel test reveals a significant indirect
effect of perceived ease of use on reported usage of the delivery media (z=3.39, p=0.000).
A significant contribution of our study is the creation and enhancement of intrinsic motivation
via an innovative pedagogical approach – PATH. The findings help educators and researchers
understand the benefits of effectively delivering materials in a creative and motivation-enhancing
manner to increase learning and performance. Designers can incorporate motivating and
creativity enhancing features into systems to satisfy the users’ needs for these activities .
We recognize some limitations of the study. First, the participants’ reported usage of the delivery
media is a subjective usability measure. Both subjective and objective  usability measures
must be examined to ensure that the same conclusions are reached about usability. One prior
study conducted a meta-analysis of employee performance and indicated that subjective and
objective measures may capture different aspects of performance . This opens up an avenue
for future research to gather objective usability data such as actual system usage to provide
additional insight into the findings of this study. Another limitation is use of the perceived
performance construct rather than actual performance. We consider this an area for future
research. Researchers can investigate how the features inherent in PATH can enhance learning
and performance. Finally, use of self-reported effort for testing hypothesis 5 limits our ability to
rule out the dissonance explanation. The dissonance theory can be used to explain judgment
about the fruits of one’s own labor, not the effort of a third party . While Kruger et al. (2004)
emphasized other-generated effort to provide insight into the effort heuristic and rule out the
dissonance explanation, this is not an objective of this study. Thus, both the effort heuristic and
the dissonance theory can be used to explain the empirical evidence obtained in hypothesis 5.
*References available upon request from Siew H. Chan, Washington State University, College of
Business, Department of Accounting, 242 Todd Hall, PO Box 644729, Pullman, WA 99164-
4729. E-mail: email@example.com.