Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The psychology of motivation and its relevance to educational practice.

Elliott, J., Hufton, N., Anderman, E., & Illushin, L. (2000). The psychology of
motivation and its relevance to educational practice. Educational and Child
Psychology, 17(3), 122-133.

This article begins by discussing differences in student achievement in the United States and Asian/East European countries. The authors state that these differences are attributable to either better teaching or differences in student motivation. They cite research that found lower levels of student motivation in the United States and United Kingdom.

The authors then present a very brief overview of the history of motivation research within the framework of psychology and specifically educational psychology. They trace this research as far back as Freud and as recently as to 1999.

The authors identify a number of theoretical perspectives regarding motivation and comment on the fact that there is yet to be a unified model of motivation. They explore intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and focus on the overjustification hypothesis, which posits the idea that constant external rewards (behavioral reinforcements) can undermine the value of learning as an end in itself. They refer to a fascinating meta-analysis of studies on rewards and identify that unexpected tangible rewards do in fact raise levels of intrinsic motivation, albeit temporarily. They go on to note that verbal rewards do not increase intrinsic motivation. The authors caution that an overreliance on material rewards could be harmful to students.

They also explore attribution theory, which explores how students make sense of the educational outcomes they experience. One of the more important points of attribution theory is that when students attribute their performance to external factors, their motivation to persist in the face of failure is reduced. The opposite is true as well, where students who attribute their success to internal factors are far more likely to persist in the face of difficulty. The authors review some of these conclusions from the foundational work of Bernard Weiner, and these are reminiscent of the work of Carol Dweck and Geoff Cohen on motivation and mindset.

The authors also discuss the theory of self-efficacy, which deals with the idea that people who have a great degree of self-efficacy believe they can accomplish difficult tasks. While this may seem obvious, the authors discuss the fact that high levels of self-efficacy do not always translate into high levels of achievement. They examine a Russian study with paradoxical results, where children demonstrated lower levels of self-confidence but achieved quite highly. The authors make an intriguing point that children’s academic self-perceptions were tied to how they believed their teachers viewed them.

The next model the authors discuss is ‘expectancy X value,’ where expectancy is similar to self-efficacy, and the “value” component breaks down into four factors: attainment value, intrinsic value, utility value, and cost. Eccles’ research on expectancy X value found marked declines in both factors (expectancy and value) in the middle school years, which makes a focus on increasing them quite important.

Next, the authors explore goal orientation theory, which breaks down motivation into mastery goals and performance goals. The authors discuss performance goals in more detail, analzying two different types of performance goals.

Lastly, the authors explore the effect of pedagogy on motivation. The compare Russia to the United States in depth. One of the more interesting points compares the focus on student autonomy in American classrooms with a more authoritarian approach in Russia. The authors explore Russian pedagogical methods in more depth, and it is interesting to note that the Russian methods can be characterized as teacher-centered, high-pressure enviroments that are at the same time goal-oriented and collaborative, at least among students. The Russian curricula place great emphasis on textbooks, homework, and day-to-day grading of participation, which the authors acknowledge is somewhat ambiguous and up to the judgment of the teacher.

One of the more fascinating conclusions the authors make is that Western research on motivation may not be at all applicable to the Russian educational system, in part because Western research tends to focus on the extremes-- what reduces student motivation to harmful degrees or what is highly motivating, whereas the Russian model aims for a more moderate level of motivation and resultant success. It is intriguing to consider the value of both systems, and there may be interesting cultural conclusions to draw from this point made by the author. It is certainly clear that there are different value systems at work in the respective educational systems.

The authors reference scholarship that suggests that the characteristics that encourage motivation might be culturally embedded and therefore not applicable across wide-ranging countries and cultural groups, but also imply that there is not enough extant research to make a rigorous conclusion on these grounds.

Discussion of Value:

This was a dense, fascinating, and ultimately very thought-provoking article, and it is one I would highly recommend to colleagues and members of my cohort. The authors clearly did extensive, careful research, and were judicious in the conclusions they made. They raise many questions work considering and offer numerous avenues to consider for further study, consideration, and research.

For educators interested in student motivation, cultural differences in education, and a summary of Western research on motivation, this article is excellent.

“In schools, extrinsic reinforcement often takes the form of public recognition and approval. However, if a teacher constantly gives out gold stars for doing mathematics problems correctly, and then stops giving out gold stars, one may question whether the students will continue to do the mathematics problems? Must the teacher continue to provide extrinsic reinforcers throughout a child’s school career?”

“Deci et al. (1999) carried out a detailed meta-analytic review of 128 studies that examined the effects of extrinsic rewards (tangible and verbal) on intrinsic motivation. They found that whereas tangible rewards offered for engaging in, completing or succeeding on a task were generally deleterious to intrinsic motivation, this was not the case where the reward was unexpected.”

“Unfortunately, the use of verbal rewards failed to enhance children’s intrinsic motivation.”

“The pressure upon schools in the UK and US to raise standards has resulted in material incentives being increasingly being offered to students as rewards for high achievement. While these may prove efficacious in the short-term, the long-term implications of such schemes upon students’ attitudes to learning could be ‘disastrous.’”

“It is important to differentiate between those internal factors over which the indi- vidual has high degree of control (effort) and those which are relatively fixed (natural ability). If a child considers an experience of failure to be the result of a lack of ability, one would anticipate less goal-seeking behaviour than if it were perceived to be because they hadn’t worked hard enough.”

“An individual who has high self-efficacy perceives that she or he has the competence to engage in a particular task.”

“The relationship between self-perceptions and motivation may be more complex than is often credited. Whereas it is clear that poor self-efficacy, low levels of perceived competence and self-esteem are demotivating and result in withdrawal, it may be unwise to extrapolate from this to claim that high levels of self-confidence result in superior performance. In their comparative studies, for example, Elliott, Hufton and colleagues have noted the somewhat paradoxical finding that while evidencing high academic standards, Russian children tended to demonstrate markedly lower self-perceptions of their ability than the English and American children. This was not an isolated finding; English and American children’s over- optimistic self-perceptions are a feature of several other large-scale studies.”

“One might anticipate that lower levels of self- confidence and the more critical stance of teachers would reduce the children’s predilection for learning. However, it did not appear that Russian children’s orientation to school or motivation to work hard was in any way reduced as a result.”

“Attainment value (how important is the task?), intrinsic value (how interesting is the task?), utility value (how useful is the task?), and cost (what is the personal cost involved with engaging in the task)?”

“In addition, numerous studies have documented a marked decline in expectancies and values during middle childhood and early adoles- cence (e.g., Eccles, Wigfield, Midgley, Reuman, Mac Iver & Feldlaufer, 1993; Eccles, Wigfield, Harold & Blumenfeld, 1993). In particular, in American schools, as early adoles- cents make the transition from elementary (primary) school to junior high (middle) school, the valuing of academic subjects, and expectancies for success, tend to decline, often quite dramatically (Wigfield, Eccles, Mac Iver, Reuman, & Midgley, 1991).”

“This would involve the reduction of those classroom activities that have low authenticity, offer few choices to students, and which require low-level skills.”

“Passe (1996), for example, argues that a sense of competence will only promote motivation if it is self-determined: ‘When students have little say in the decision- making process, even a successful activity will not promote a sense of competence.’”

“Lessons also exhibit a deeper three-part structure: (i) a focus on oral rehearsal of previous learning, particularly, but not solely from the immediately foregoing homework; (ii) exploration of new material; (iii) the rehearsal of new material and guidance as to how to study it further at home. Learning in lessons is collaborative and collective. High, teacher-directed, pupil participation is expected. Pupils are called on at random to state, or explain what they know or how to do something. They may be called, or themselves ask, to go to the blackboard to work a problem or complete an exercise for the rest of the class. They have been trained since the beginning of schooling to compose sentences orally and express them- selves cogently and judiciously. To a marked extent, the class works together with the teacher to explore and understand the subject matter under consideration.”

“A further complicating factor could be that Western theorists have tended to study what demotivates and what highly motivates, whereas what may most normally be at issue, in providing mass general education, is what sufficiently motivates learners to benefit sufficiently from such provision.”

No comments:

Post a Comment