Motivation and education perfomance

Friday, September 01, 2006

Definitions, Types and Theories of Motivation.

Definitions. Motivation (motus, movere = to move) has been defined variously by psychologists as: 'the phenomena involved in a person's drives and goal-seeking behaviour'; 'the tendencies to activity which commence with a persistent stimulus (drive) and end with an appropriate adjustive response'; 'the arousal, regulation and sustaining of a pattern of behaviour'; 'the internal state or condition that results in behaviour directed towards a specific goal' (Curzon, 1990). The term will be used in this site as a general sense to refer to a person's aroused desire for participation in a learning process. Dewey speaks of the teacher in their role of guide and director as steering a boat, '. . . but the energy that propels it must come from those who are learning'. The arousal, regulation and sustaining of the student's enthusiasm for learning, that is, the utilization of his power of motivation in the service of the lesson, constitute an important task for the teacher. The harnessing of the learner's drive is to be seen as of paramount importance in learning, for drive is the basis of self-motivation in the classroom.

Types of motivation. Some psychologists concerned with understanding learning have attempted to formulate 'categories of motivation', i.e. groupings of students' motives for learning. Categories have been presented under four headings: instrumental motivation; social motivation; achievement motivation; and intrinsic motivation. It should be noted that more than one category may dominate learner motivation at a given time (Biggs and Teller, 1987.)

Instrumental motivation: This type of motivation, which is purely extrinsic, is in evidence where students perform tasks solely because of the consequences likely to ensue, e.g. the chance of obtaining some tangible reward or avoiding a reprimand. It is in total contrast to intrinsic motivation (see below). In the face of motivation of this nature, the teacher should ensure that the task to be performed is placed in a context perceived as pleasant.

Social motivation: Students influenced by this type of motivation tend to perform tasks so as to please those they respect, admire, or whose opinions are of some importance to them. Rewards are of limited significance even if tangible; the reward here is nonmaterial and is related in direct measure to the perceived relationship between the student and the person whose reinforcement activity (praise or approval, for example) is considered important.

Achievement motivation: This is involved where students learn 'in the hope of success'. Ausubel suggests that there are three elements in motivation of this type:

(a) cognitive drive—the learner is attempting to satisfy a perceived 'need to know';

(b) self enhancement—the learner is satisfying the need for self-esteem;

(c) affiliation—the learner is seeking the approval of others.

Intrinsic motivation: In this case there are no external rewards; the task is undertaken for the pleasure ind satisfaction it brings to the student. It seems to be central to 'high quality involvement' in a task and to be self-maintaining and self-terminating. Curiosity and a desire to meet challenges may characterize the learning of students motivated in this style.

Theories of Motivation

A Humanist Approach to Motivation; Self-Actualisation.

Maslow saw motivation in terms of an individual's striving for growth; he sought to explain it by reference to a 'hierarchy of human needs'. People are 'wanting animals'. He believed that at any given moment a person's benaviour is dominated by those of his needs which have the greatest potency. As their 'lower', physiological needs are adequately satisfied, motives at a 'higher' level in the hierarchy come into play. The hierarchy is made up as follows:

1. Physiological needs, e.g. hunger, thirst, leading to a desire tor food and water.

2. Safety needs, e.g. security.

3. Belonging needs, e.g. friendship and love.

4. Esteem needs, e.g. success, approval from others.

5. Self-actualization needs, e.g. desire for self-fulfilment.

These needs are hierarchical; high-level needs will be attended to only after low-level needs are satisfied. Maslow's basic needs (physiological, safety and belonging) are termed deficiency because they motivate (lead to behavior) when the organism has a deficiency with respect to a need (for example, lacks food or water). The metaneeds (esteem and self-actualisation) are termed growth needs because they motivate behaviors that do not result from deficiencies but from a natural human tendency toward growth. The growth needs will be attended to only after the basic needs are reasonably satisfied. The ultimate need is that of self-actualisation. Self-actualization is a difficult concept to explain. Leclerc et al (1998) in their survey of 26 "experts" indicates a general consensus that self-actualization is a process rather than a state. It is a process of growth—of becoming—evident in the unfolding and fulfillment of self. In a sense it is trying to become the best we can, as individuals, become.

For Maslow, true motivation is intrinsic. In other words, it comes from within, and the more that extrinsic motivators (money, rewards, etc) are used to encourage learning the less our intrinsic motivation to learn will be present. Thus the use of external/extrinsic motivators to encourage learning will ultimatley demotivate the student, because when they are no longer present, or become meaningless there will be little desire to learn. The extrinsic motivators will have replaced the innate intrinsic desire to learn.

Application to education:

The essential point is that from Maslow's persepctive, no learning will take place unless the students basic needs are met. Thus they need to have their physiological needs met along with feelings of safety and also experience a sense of belonging. This makes intutive sense (has face validity) because a student who is hungry will never work well, nor will a student who is being bullied (lack of safety) and neither will the student who feels that they are an 'outsider' and that they have no friends. If these basic needs are met then motivation to learn should be present, especially if the student gains some esteem from their efforts. Indeed, for Malsow, the best motivation for learning will occur when we are attempting to self-actualise, for this is when we will be truly experiencing growth and development. Ultimately any factor which prevents us from self-actualising will be a hinderence to our motivation to learn.

A Cognitive Approach to Motivation;Self-efficacy.

Bandura informs us that self-efficacy has to do with our own estimates of our personal effectiveness. "Perceived self-efficacy," he writes, "refers to beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments" (1997, p. 3). The most efficacious people are those who are most competent. Accordingly, self-efficacy has two related components: The first has to do with the skills—the actual competencies—required for successful performance; the second concerns the individual's personal estimates of competence.

Personal estimates of competence are extremely important in education. As Zimmerman, Bandura, and Martinez-Pons put it, "Numerous studies have shown that students with a high sense of academic efficacy display greater persistence, effort, and intrinsic interest n their academic learning and performance" (1992, p. 664). Our beliefs about how likely we are to succeed in a given subject or endeavor (our notions of self-efficacy for that subject or activity) profoundly influence what we choose to do, how much effort we are willing to put into it, and how persistent we will be. For example, following a study of 246 students at the end of their eighth and tenth years of school (USA schools) Marsh and Yeung (1997) found that positive self-concepts in specific subjects (the extent to which students expected to do well) were among the best predictors of what students subsequently choose to study. In fact, this research showed academic self-concept he to be a better predictor of future course selections than actual grades in various subjects.

A Behaviourist Approach to Motivation; Reinforcement/Extrinsic Motivation.

Skinner demonstrated how positive reinforcement increases the probability of a behavior when it follows as a consequence of the behavior. Negative reinforcement also increases the probability of a response, but it does so as a function of being removed as a consequence of behavior. See the material on Behaviourist approaches to learning for more detail.

Positive and negative reinforcement are used in virtually all classrooms; teachers praise and admonish students, they give high and low grades, they smile and frown. These and a thousand other indicators of approval or disapproval are examples of reinforcement. When reinforcement is used judiciously and systematically, it can have profound effects on behavior. However we are not simply hungry rats in a Skinner box. If we look into a classroom, we will see that behaviour is not simply driven by external rewards like chocolate bars or gold stars or high marks. Rather behaviour is driven by cognitions and by emotions. It is not surprising that current applications of behavioursit principles to the classroom take thinking into account. As Stipek (1988) notes, the most powerful reinforcers for students are stimuli such as praise, and that given that the effectiveness of these stimuli clearly depend on a student's interpretations of the teacher's behavior, it is apparant that cognition is central to understanding how reinforcement works as a motvator. Thus a simplistic stimulus-response reading of behaviouristic principles will not offer an adequate understanding of the use of reinforcement in the classroom.


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