Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Motivation to learn

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Motivation to learnː
What drives the motivation to learn and how can it be fostered?
Figure 1. Motivation to learn

Overview[edit | edit source]

Case Study:

Yvonne loves dancing and has taken many different dance classes from a very young age. Currently she is learning salsa at a dance school and attends a class every week which she thoroughly enjoys. Yvonne’s long term boyfriend, Paul is a cognitive introvert and tries avoiding social gatherings as much as he can. Paul doesn’t like dancing however he has been secretly taking modern dance lessons as he wants to surprise Yvonne with his dance moves on her 30th birthday party and propose to her. Yvonne and Paul’s mutual friend Kerry was brought up in a high achieving family, both of her parents are professional dancers. Kerry has won many awards in different dance competitions over the years and is currently taking salsa lessons with Yvonne with the intention to enter and win the World Salsa Competition 2018 in the USA. In all three cases Yvonne, Paul and Kerry are learning to dance, however motivations behind their learning are different in each case.

Our personal and professional lives are permeated by the concept of motivation. We speak of motivation as getting out of bed, going to work, doing our chores, and of course, learning. Learning and motivation have significant survival value and importance for our existence. Hence understanding the framework of motivation and what role it plays in learning is significantly important.  

The chapter begins with an overview of motivation. The second section explores the theoretical frame work of motivation to learn. The chapter ends with ways to foster motivation to learn, with a focus on education.

Focus questions
  • What is motivation?
  • What drives the motivation to learn?
  • How motivation to learn can be fostered in education sector?

What is motivation to learn?[edit | edit source]

To understand learning motivation, we need to understand what is motivation first. Motivation is wanting (Baumeister, 2016). It is a reserved and internal experience that activates and energizes behaviour and gives it direction (Kleinginna & Kleinginna, 1981). We cannot see an individual’s motivation for any given task, however it can be measurable by that individual’s behaviour, engagement, psychophysiology, brain activations, and self-report (Reeve, 2018). Generally, motivation is categorised in to two categories- Intrinsic motivation and Extrinsic motivation.

Figure 2. Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation[edit | edit source]

Intrinsic motivation involves taking part in behaviours which are innately rewarding, doing something for its own sake rather than an external reward (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). Examples:

  • Studying a subject someone finds captivating
  • Partaking a challenging task as you find the challenge fun and exciting

Extrinsic Motivation[edit | edit source]

Extrinsic motivation is a construct that relates to performing behaviours or engage in activities to earn reward or avoid punishment (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). An individual is extrinsically motivated when they perform a behaviour to get something in return or avoid something unpleasant, not solely because they enjoy it. Examples:

  • Studying a subject to get good marks or to avoid fail grade
  • Helping someone to get appraisal

Motivation to learn is the drive to work towards an outcome that we want, an outcome that we won’t have if we don’t change what we know.

Theoretical frameworks of motivation to learn[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Timeline For The Development of Theories Related To Student Motivation

There are several theories which shed light on our understandings of motivations behind different behaviours including learning (Cook & Artino, 2016). There are conceptual overlaps among theories, however each theory contributes towards our understanding of unique aspects of motivation. In this chapter we will focus on four key contemporary theories of motivation.

Expectancy‐value theories[edit | edit source]

These theories hold that peoples’ behaviours are contingent with two unique factors: the expectancy of success, and the value or personal importance of the task (Wigfield, & Eccles, 2000). Expectancy relates to the question “Can I do this task?” and value relates to the question “Do I want to do this task and/or why?” According to expectancy-value theory, motivation behind any behaviour depends on an individual's retention of positive expectancies and values.

Empirical studies (Eccles, Wigfield, Harold, & Blumenfeld, 1993; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Wigfield & Eccles, 2000) reveal that both task value and expectancy of success are associated with learning outcomes, which includes choice of topics to study (i.e. domains of math, reading, music, and sports), degree of engagement in learning, and performance. Findings of these studies also points out that task value matters the most when it comes to choosing whether to learn something; and engagement and learning achievement is strongly associated with expectancy of success once the choice has been made (Wigfield, & Eccles, 2000).

Social‐cognitive theory[edit | edit source]

Learning by observing others is the most simplistic viewpoint of social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986). More broadly, this theory postulates that learning occurs in social context with a dynamic and reciprocal interaction among three factors:

  • Personal factors (e.g. expectations, attitudes, self-efficacy)
  • Behavioural factors
  • Environmental factors (both the social and physical environment) (Bandura, 1986)

For instance, someone loves to play footy (personal factor), he gets praises from teammates and coach during games (environment), praise motivates him to learn different techniques to improve his skills to play better (behaviour).

A motivated individual in pursuit of a personal goal actively engages in the process of regulating their behaviour and manipulating their environment. Whether or not the individual choses to pursue his goal relies on self‐efficacy, or in other words beliefs about their own capabilities, values and interests (Pajares, 2008). Self‐efficacy plays a key role in activating core learning processes, including cognition and motivation (Schunk, 1991; Zimmerman, 2000).

Goal orientation theories[edit | edit source]

Goal orientation theory is a particularly significant theoretical framework in the study of motivation to learn. While other motivational theories examine a learner’s beliefs about their successes and failures, goal orientation theory examines the reasons why someone would engage in a learning task, e.g.- academic task (Kaplan & Maehr, 2006). Early researchers focused on two main orientations that are found to be related differently to adaptive and maladaptive engagement to adapting in achievement situations (Ames, 1992). With Mastery goal orientation the primary focus is on the intrinsic value of learning or competency development; in contrast, Performance goal orientation is concerned with doing better than others and avoiding being looked down at, or demonstrating competency (Ames, 1992). More recent research has incorporated two dimensions of performance goal orientation: approach and avoidance orientations (Elliot & Harackiewicz, 1996; Elliot, 1999). Performance-achievement orientation focuses on achieving success, on the other hand performance-avoidance orientation focuses on the possibility of failure (Elliot & Harackiewicz, 1996).

A number of studies have investigated the effect of different goal orientations on motivation in learning behaviours and found that the pattern of associations related to performance-approach goals is mostly positive and related to higher achievement than are mastery goals, however mastery goals are associated with greater attention and deep learning strategies (Harackiewicz, Barron, Tauer, & Elliot, 2002; Elliot, 1999). Performance‐avoidance goals, by contrast, have found to be associated with low achievement and other negative outcomes like low efficacy, anxiety, avoidance of help-seeking, self-handicapping strategies (Elliot, 1999; Urdan, Ryan, Anderman, & Gheen, 2002).

Self‐determination theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 4. Self-Determination Theory

Self-determination theory is an empirically derived theory of human motivation and personality which focuses on peoples’ innate and inherent predispositions and psychological needs (Deci & Ryan, 2011). The research on this theory evolved from experiments investigating effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). Self-determination theory postulates that there are two key categories of motivation-intrinsic and extrinsic; who we are and how we act is shaped by these two types of motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2008).

Self-determination theory also holds that there are three types of rudimentary needs that motivate human behaviour, including learning behaviours (Deci & Ryan, 2008):

  1. Autonomy: Autonomy is the need to feel in control of one's actions. It can be enhanced by choice and acknowledgement of feelings, and undermined by imposed goals, threats and deadlines.
  2. Competence: It refers to self‐efficacy. It can be enhanced by positive feedback and optimal challenges, and undermined by negative feedback and excessive challenges
  3. Relatedness: Relatedness is the sense of belonging or affiliation others to whom one feels connected. It can be enhanced by inclusive environment, respect and caring, and undermined by competition, criticism or cliques (Cook & Artino, 2016).

Quiz questions

Here are some example quiz questions - choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 Kerry's goal for the upcoming exam is to get more marks than any of her classmates. Kerry's goal orientation is _____

performance approach
performance avoidance
mastery approach
mastery avoidance
None of the above

2 The need for a sense of control is an example of what type of need?

Need for competence
Need for acceptance
Need for achievement
Need for relatedness
None of the above

Fostering motivation to learn[edit | edit source]

Having the drive to learn is of significant importance, specially in academic or educational settings. Based on the different theoretical frame work discussed above and identified practical applications by different researchers (Mann, 1999; Cate, Kusurkar, & Williams, 2011; Teunissen & Bok, 2013; Dweck, 2016;  Cook & Artino, 2016), following suggestions can be made to foster motivation to learn:

Theory Actionable suggestions
  • Learning instructors (i.e. teachers) should support learners (i.e. students) to preserve high but true perceptions of ability.
  • Boosting expectancy by nurturing the belief that competence is controllable.
  • Instructional materials used to motivate to learn can clearly establish a link between a task and its importance and utility (e.g. value)
  • Learners should be assisted to develop accurate perceptions of competence (self-efficacy beliefs) by providing opportunities for active mastery, using verbal encouragement which is realistic, and by prompting to set high-quality goals and monitor progression of those goals.
  • Helping learners link self-administered and external rewards with goal progress.
  • Learners should be provided with credible attributional feedback after task performance.
Goal Orientation
  • Educators can instil an incremental (growth) mindset by reinforcing the human brain's limitless learning potential.
  • An incremental mindset can be installed in the learner by reinforcing the limitless learning potential of a human brain.
  • Recognising effort as a vital learning outcome in its own right and reframing failure and mistakes as opportunities to learn.
  • Allowing choice by flexible schedules ad self-directed learning to promote feelings of autonomy.
  • Promoting feelings of competence and relatedness.
  • Using rewards for actual performance and progress (informational purposes) rather than for task competition (behavioral control).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

As human beings we need to feel in control, capable, and connected. The motivation behind our behaviours is fostered by these important elements and they inspire learning during the course of our life. Although at our early stages of life (childhood) we tend to act from intrinsic motivation when it comes to learning, at later stages (teenage, adulthood) we progressively get influenced by external motives. There is strong evidence that points out that external influences derived from rewards, grades, peer group pressure, status, career goals and deadlines-penalties ultimately undermine our intrinsic motivation (Deci, et al., 1999). Hence when it comes to learning, people should try fostering their internal motivations to flourish and fulfil their full potential. Suggestions made in this chapter regarding fostering motivation to learn can be applied where appropriate to enhance motivation and learning.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261-271.

Cate, O. T., Kusurkar, R. A., & Williams, G. C. (2011). How self-determination theory can assist our understanding of the teaching and learning processes in medical education. AMEE Guide No. 59. Medical Teacher, 33(12), 961-973.

Baumeister, R. F. (2016). Toward a general theory of motivation: Problems, challenges, opportunities, and the big picture. Motivation and Emotion, 40(1), 1-10.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action : a social cognitive theory . Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Cook, D. A., & Artino, A. R. (2016). Motivation to learn: An overview of contemporary theories. Medical Education, 50(10), 997-1014.

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627-668.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-Determination Theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49, 182-185.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2011). Self-Determination Theory. Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology: Volume 1, 416-437.

Dweck, C. S. (2013). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Psychology press.

Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational Beliefs, Values, and Goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 109-132.

Eccles, J., Wigfield, A., Harold, R. D., & Blumenfeld, P. (1993). Age and Gender Differences in Childrens Self- and Task Perceptions during Elementary School. Child Development, 64(3), 830.

Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1996). Approach and avoidance achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3), 461-475.

Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 34(3), 169-189.

Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K. E., Tauer, J. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2002). Predicting success in college: A longitudinal study of achievement goals and ability measures as predictors of interest and performance from freshman year through graduation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 562-575.

Kaplan, A., & Maehr, M. L. (2006). The Contributions and Prospects of Goal Orientation Theory. Educational Psychology Review, 19(2), 141-184.

Kleinginna, P. R., & Kleinginna, A. M. (1981). A categorized list of motivation definitions, with a suggestion for a consensual definition. Motivation and Emotion, 5(3), 263-291.

Mann, K. V. (1999). Motivation in medical education. Academic Medicine, 74(3), 237-9.

Pajares, F. (2008). Motivational role of self-efficacy beliefs in self-regulated learning. Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Reeve, J. (2018). Understanding motivation and emotion. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000a). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000b). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. 066x.55.1.68

Teunissen, P. W., & Bok, H. G. (2013). Believing is seeing: How peoples beliefs influence goals, emotions and behaviour. Medical Education, 47(11), 1064-1072.

Schunk, D. (1991). Self-Efficacy and Academic Motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 207–231.

Urdan, T., Ryan, A. M., Anderman, E. M., & Gheen, M. H. (2002). Goals, goal structures, and avoidance behaviors. Goals, goal structures, and patterns of adaptive learning, 17, 311.

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy–Value Theory of Achievement Motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 68-81.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Self-Efficacy: An Essential Motive to Learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 82-91.

External links[edit | edit source]