Factors Affecting Motivation of Students explains that Motivation is the desire to continue learning and achieving the best. It is the need to continue conquering the unknown and the little known. A typical student’s desire is to keep progressing and ascending to the highest educational horizons and climbing to the highest rungs of the academic ladder. Kreitner and Kinicki (2010), state that the word motivation derives from the Latin word mover which means ‘to move’. They define motivation as “those psychological processes that cause the arousal, direction, and persistence of voluntary actions that are goal directed”. Kreitner and Kinicki (2010) link motivation to needs. They define needs as ‘physiological or psychological deficiencies that arouse behavior’. They argue that needs can be ‘strong or weak’ and that they are influenced by environmental factors. Accordingly, unmet needs motivate students to satisfy them. The suggestion by Epstein (1994) and Schultheiss (2001) as reported by Pintrich (2003) that ‘individuals do not need to know what they want in order for motives and needs to influence them’ is totally unfounded. In order to succeed in a research methodology module, students need to know the benefits that derive from the module. The need to know the importance of research skills after graduation, the benefits that accrue from the masterly of such skills and the salaries and fringe benefits paid to researchers not to mention the prestige and fame attached to quality research motivate students into investing much more time studying research. The need for achieving something tangible is a catalyst of motivation. In his definition of motivation, Pintrich (2003) agrees with Kreitner and Kinick (2010). He emphasizes the role and impact of ‘self-regulating’ in shaping behavior. The higher the quality of self-regulating behavior, the higher the chances of a student performing better in a research module. Motivation as a key instrument to success needs to be well understood. Though some contemporary researchers such as McInerney and Liem (2008)argue that ‘grades’ are the ‘principal’ drivers of motivation among students in America, there is apparently no practical research that has been conducted to investigate the role played by disciplines such as andragogy, peer collaborative learning and blended learning in motivating university students. Success is driven by motivation. Well-grounded research is important in unpacking the myth surrounding motivation. Crowning and Campbell (2009) seem to be suggesting that gender, attitudes, possessing an external locus of control and culture play a significant role in students ‘motivation.
Motivation amongst students is a dynamic subject. It seems that peer led activities that enhance learning play a crucial role in motivation though it has not been fully investigated. Cassidy (2006) mentions that a program of assessment which incorporates an element of peer assessment is beneficial to learning. He argues that students work harder with the knowledge that they will be assessed by their peers. Peers according to Deutsch (2002) can tremendously play a significant influence towards the attitudes and behaviors of the target peers. But he concedes that there is a dearth of sound research on peer education as a motivator and as a catalyst of behavior change. The relationship between students’ motivation and their academic success in a research methodology module will be the focus of this study.
Learning is a continuous process. Students register for courses at different universities and colleges some solely for academic purposes to see them walk through to success. The academic journey students walk is sometimes precarious. It is full of hurdles and obstructions. This academic journey is like a zigzagged road full of ups, downs, challenges and hardships; these impediments are not new, they are traditional to the academic world. To some, it involves sometimes falling down and picking up the pieces and moving again. The slippery and sometimes rough path the students take there is an invisible urge that keeps propelling the inner concern to keep the fighting alive. Motivation is a reward to those students who have conquered the inner anxiety.
It is a key to success in research and other studies. Motivation contributes significantly to ethical practices in the academic world. Motivation precedes success. Where motivation is a norm, success is the culture. Plagiarism rampant amongst students is itself a symptom of a diseased ethical and moral fabric of students’ academic life, its presence, is a deficiency of motivation and an obstacle to success in research. Though no significant research has been done to pervasively prove the correlation between motivation, plagiarism and success, there is strong anecdotal evidence that ties poor quality motivation to academic cheating. The onset of the dotcom bubble has only added insult to injury. Though the internet is supposedly to be used as the robust driver of research and innovation and therefore uphold motivation high amongst research students, this is not the case. Gulli, Kohler and Patriquin (2007) report that its advent has ‘accelerated the trend’ of cheating and consequently lowering success rates. Low quantity motivation plays a significant role in the ‘cut and paste’ culture prevalent amongst some research students. Motivational science should delve deeper into the phenomenon of student motivation. It should interrogate all the proven and unproven, implicit and explicit theories related to the subject. Theories such as self-efficacy and expectancy-value theory are vital in the investigation of motivation as a social cognitive construct, (Vansteenkiste et al 2009).
Motivation as Vansteenkiste et al (2009) assert should be a powerful tool in assisting research students to achieving optimal results, it must be at ‘higher levels’ and of higher quality. The quality ‘dose’ in motivation, it is suggested, must be equal in measurement to the quantity one for it to be effective and result into success. Poor quality motivation leads to low university grades. What motivates students in classroom is vital towards building a solid motivational culture to propel excellence in learning. The understanding of motivational processes (Pintrich, 2003) amongst students is pivotal to clearly outlining the drivers of motivation amongst classroom students. Pintrich (2003) is of the view that understanding what students want, what motivates them in classroom, how they get what they want, knowing what they want and what motivates them, knowledge of how motivation leads to cognition and cognition to motivation, how motivation changes and develops, and the role of context and culture are core to understanding the science of motivation amongst university students.
What students want unequivocally is the need to succeed, achieve higher grades and get good jobs. This is followed by a need for a higher social status in the community where they live. It should be noted that the need to achieve forms the core objective of any student, but one needs to be cautious as Kreitner and Kinick (2010) warn because setting very high achievement needs can lead to negative outcomes. Though a great deal of research on student motivation has been conducted, most of it focuses on the need to motivate students and on how students should be motivated.
And Most of the researchers delve into methods and the impacts of motivation towards academic excellence, researchers have not focused much on an individual student. The phenomenon of when should a prospective student be motivated has not been clearly addressed. There is a need to focus on the academic journey of a student as an individual, and, clearly investigate when the motivation process should be initiated to assist such a student.
When should the process start that focuses on an individual; should it be before a student enrolls at university, or just after enrolling at university or should motivation be a steady and continuous process until the student graduates with a university degree? Tremendous effort should focus on poor or high quality motivation is it an observable behavior, and if it is, which corrective or remedial actions should be instituted to address it.
Explaining Vroom’s Expectancy theory, Kreitner and Kinicki (2010) state that ‘people are motivated to behave in ways that produce desired combinations of expected outcomes’. Vroom’s research on motivation using the expectancy theory delves into the phenomenon of predicting motivation and behavior when a ‘choice between two or more alternatives must be made’ (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2010). The theory illustrates how much effort a student or an individual should put in a particular task for him or her to succeed. Motivation as a social cognitive construct seen through the expectancy theory is affected by a person’s perceived need and expectations with a view that the higher the effort propelled into the process the higher the chances of getting better and higher quality results and consequently success.
Fugate et al (2004) argue that individuals with internal locus of control always perform better in tasks than those who possess external locus of control. Du Toit, Erasmus and Strydoms (2010) attribute internal motivation to internal locus of control. They argue that an individual gifted with an internal locus of control is well motivated, goal oriented, is an extrovert and enterprising. Such individuals achieve success where as those who are not gifted with such do not. Chowning and Campbell (2009) support this view; they proceed to state that ‘possession of external locus of control, especially with regard to one’s personal experiences, can produce interpersonal derision as well as poor academic outcomes’.
Vansteenkiste et al (2009) confirms that motivation plays a pivotal role in learning outcomes. They argue that students with high quantity motivation perform better than those with poor quality motivation. McInerney, and Liem (2008) reason that social class is a prominent motivator amongst students from the middleclass.
Motivation increases initiation of and persistence in activities. Learners are more likely to begin a task they actually want to do. They are also more likely to continue working at it until they’ve completed it, even if they are occasionally interrupted or frustrated in the process (Larson, 2000; Maehr, 1984; Wigfield, 1994). In general, then, motivation increases students’ time on task, an important factor affecting their learning and achievement (Brophy, 1988; Larson, 2000; Wigfield, 1994). Motivation affects cognitive processes. Motivation affects what learners pay attention to and how effectively they process it (Eccles & Wigfield, 1985; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Pugh & Bergin, 2006). For instance, motivated learners often make a concerted effort to truly understand classroom material—to learn it meaningfully—and consider how they might use it in their own lives. Motivation determines which consequences are reinforcing and punishing. The more learners are motivated to achieve academic success, the more they will be proud of an A and upset by a low grade. The more learners want to be accepted and respected by peers, the more they will value membership in the “in” group and be distressed by the ridicule of classmates. To a teenage boy uninterested in athletics, making or not making the school football team is no big deal, but to a teen whose life revolves around football, making or not making the team may be a consequence of monumental importance. Motivation often enhances performance. Because of the other effects just identified—goal-directed behavior, effort and energy, initiation and persistence, cognitive processing, and the impact of consequences—motivation often leads to improved performance. As you might guess, then, students who are most motivated to learn and excel in classroom activities tend to be our highest achievers (A. E. Gottfried, 1990; Schiefele, Krapp, & Winteler, 1992; Walberg & Uguroglu, 1980). Conversely, students who have little interest in academic achievement are at high risk for dropping out before they graduate from high school (Hardré & Reeve, 2003; Hymel et al., 1996; Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997).
Motivation directs behavior toward particular goals. As social cognitive theorists propose that individuals set goals for themselves and direct their behavior accordingly. Motivation determines the specific goals toward which learners strive (Maehr & Meyer, 1997; Pintrich et al., 1993). Thus, it affects the choices students make—for instance, whether to enroll in physics or studio art, whether to spend an evening completing a challenging homework assignment or playing videogames with friends. Motivation leads to increased effort and energy. Motivation increases the amount of effort and energy that learners expend in activities directly related to their needs and goals (Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 1989; Maehr, 1984; Pintrich et al., 1993). It determines whether they pursue a task enthusiastically and wholeheartedly or apathetically and lackadaisically.
Educational psychologists have long recognized the importance of motivation for supporting student learning. More recently, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has identified initiative as one of the life and career skills necessary to prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce. However, many educators may be unfamiliar with methods for evaluating and encouraging motivation, particularly at the elementary level. The purpose of this literature review is fourfold: (a) to explore the ways in which motivation has been defined by researchers, (b) to investigate how motivation develops, (c) to learn how teachers can encourage development of motivation in their students, and (d) to review best practices in assessing motivation.
Motivation refers to “the reasons underlying behavior” (Guay et al., 2010, p. 712). Paraphrasing Gredler, Broussard and Garrison (2004) broadly define motivation as “the attribute that moves us to do or not to do something” (p. 106). Intrinsic motivation is motivation that is animated by personal enjoyment, interest, or pleasure. As Deci et al. (1999) observe, “intrinsic motivation energizes and sustains activities through the spontaneous satisfactions inherent in effective volitional action. It is manifest in behaviors such as play, exploration, and challenge seeking that people often do for external rewards” (p. 658). Researchers often contrast intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation, which is motivation governed by reinforcement contingencies. Traditionally, educators consider intrinsic motivation to be more desirable and to result in better learning outcomes than extrinsic motivation (Deci et al., 1999).
Motivation involves a constellation of beliefs, perceptions, values, interests, and actions that are all closely related. As a result, various approaches to motivation can focus on cognitive behaviors (such as monitoring and strategy use), non-cognitive aspects (such as perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes), or both. For example, Gottfried (1990) defines academic motivation as “enjoyment of school learning characterized by a mastery orientation; curiosity; persistence; task-endogeny; and the learning of challenging, difficult, and novel tasks”. On the other hand, Turner (1995) considers motivation to be synonymous with cognitive engagement, which he defines as “voluntary uses of high-level self-regulated learning strategies, such as paying attention, connection, planning, and monitoring”
According to Stipek (1996), early approaches to the study of motivation were rooted in the literature on extrinsic reinforcement. Within this literature, all behavior, including achievement, was believed to be governed by reinforcement contingencies. Proponents of this approach included B.F. Skinner, who identified different types of reinforces. Positive reinforces, or rewards, are consequences that increase the probability of a given behavior they were made contingent on, whereas negative reinforces are consequences that increase the probability of a given behavior by removing or reducing some negative external stimulus. Punishment, on the other hand, refers to unpleasant consequences that decrease the probability of a given behavior. Under this framework, the teacher’s job is clear: to use good grades and praise to reward desired behavior and bad grades or loss of privileges as punishment. As Stipek notes, this approach is limited to the extent that rewards and punishments are not equally effective for all students, and desired behaviors (such as paying attention) are difficult to reinforce. Moreover, the benefits of extrinsic rewards tend to decay over time (Stipek, 1996).
As Stipek (1996) explains, the limitations of extrinsic reinforcement led to the development of new approaches to motivate people, including cognitive behavior modification (CBM). This approach recognizes that the effects of reward contingencies are mediated by cognitive variables, such as verbal ability. Thus, the goal of CBM is to change overt behavior by manipulating cognitive processes. Under this approach, students take more responsibility for their own learning by monitoring their behavior, setting goals, deploying metacognitive strategies, and administering their own rewards. Giving students such control over their own learning is believed to result in maintenance of learning behaviors over time, the transfer of learning behaviors to new contexts, and more independence in the exercise of such behaviors. There are, however, several disadvantages to this approach, including the fact that in empirical studies, researchers observed children “cheating,” either by setting low performance standards for themselves or rewarding themselves undeservedly (Speidel & Tharp, 1980; Wall, 1983, as cited in Stipek, 1996).
These limitations, coupled with changing perspectives on motivation, ultimately led to yet another transformation of the literature on motivation emerging in the late 1960s and 1970s. This third-wave literature is characterized by the belief that behavior is affected by cognition rather than the consequences of one’s actions (Stipek, 1996). Broussard and Garrison (2004) observe that contemporary motivation research tends to be organized around three questions:
- Can I do this task?
- Do I want to do this task and why?
- What do I have to do to succeed in this task?
Can I do this Task?
As Broussard and Garrison note, those pursuing the first question developed a range of new theories regarding self-efficacy, attributions, and self-worth. Bandura (1982) defines perceived self-efficacy as “judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations” (p. 122). Eccles and Wigfield (2002) elaborate on Bandura’s description, defining self-efficacy as an individual’s confidence in his or her “ability to organize and execute a given course of action to solve a problem or accomplish a task” (p. 110). According to Bandura’s (1982) self-efficacy theory, efficacy is the major determinant of effort, persistence, and goal setting. Empirical research supports this notion, suggesting that individuals with higher self-efficacy tend to be more motivated and successful on a given task (Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990). Self-efficacy has also been associated with the use of cognitive strategies, and self-efficacy perceptions predict achievement over and above actual ability levels (Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990).
Another line of inquiry in the field of motivation explores the issue of locus of control. According to this theory, individuals should be more motivated to the extent that they feel they are in control of their own successes and failures (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). In fact, in one formulation of control theory, autonomy is one of three basic psychological needs, along with competence and relatedness. Within this framework, individual differences in the extent to which these basic needs are fulfilled correspond to variation in levels of motivation (Connell & Wellborn, 1991, as cited in Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). Locus of control is closely related to the concept of attributions. Attributions refer to an individual’s beliefs regarding causes of successful or failing performance. There are several types of attributions, including ability, effort, task, and luck. According to attribution theory, the types of attributions a person holds determine his or her level of motivation according to whether the cause is perceived as something that is changeable and within the person’s control (Weiner, 1985, as cited in Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). For example, native ability is a relatively stable characteristic that is difficult to affect. On the other hand, effort is within a person’s control and entirely manipulable. Both task characteristics and luck are outside one’s control and tend to be variable. Thus, poor performance on a task is more likely to contribute to reduced effort and motivation for those holding ability attributions than for those holding effort attributions because failing performance for the former group communicates a lack of ability that may be difficult to change, whereas failure for the latter group communicates that success is within reach if more effort is expended. Empirical research suggests that those holding effort attributions tend to exhibit more positive learning behaviors, such as goal-setting that focuses on learning rather than performance (Miller & Meece, 1997), use of strategies, and persistence at difficult or challenging tasks (Stipek, 1996). However, teachers should frame successful performances in terms of ability rather than effort because success communicates positive information about competency to students (Schunk, 1983).
Finally, self-worth theory is somewhat related to both self-efficacy and locus of control. According to this theory, students need to believe they are competent in academic domains to feel they have self-worth in the school context (Covington, 1992, as cited in Eccles & Winfield, 2002). This line of research suggests that students attempt to maximize their self-worth and will protect a sense of competence by making causal attributions that enhance their sense of competence and control. For example, empirical research suggests that the most common attributions among both college-level and younger students are ability and effort, and the most preferred attribution for failed performance is a lack of effort. According to this theory, students may also engage in negative learning behaviors, such as procrastination, making excuses, avoiding challenging tasks, and not trying, in an attempt to avoid negative ability attributions for tasks they are not confident they can perform (Covington & Omelich, 1979, as cited in Eccles & Wigfield, 2002).
Do I want to do this task and Why?
A separate body of research within the study of motivation has focused on answering the question, Do I want to do this task and why? Under this category, Broussard and Garrison (2004) include expectancy-value theories, intrinsic motivation theories, and self-determination theory.
One strand of this literature focuses on the values individuals hold for participating in various types of activities (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). Values are incentives or reasons for engaging in an activity. The value of a given task or activity has four components: attainment value, which refers to the personal value of doing well on a task; intrinsic value, which refers to subjective interest or enjoyment of performing a task; utility value, which refers to the extent to which task completion is perceived to facilitate current or future goals; and cost, which refers to the negative aspects of engaging in a given task, such as anxiety and fear of failure (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Stipek, 1996).
The notion of intrinsic motivation is closely related to intrinsic value. Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is animated by personal enjoyment, interest, or pleasure, and is usually contrasted with extrinsic motivation, which is manipulated by reinforcement contingencies (Guay et al., 2010). Typically, manipulation of extrinsic motivation is effected by the provision of rewards, which can be either tangible (e.g., money, grades, privileges, etc.) or intangible (e.g., praise). However, extrinsic motivation can come about by other means. For example, self-determination theory distinguishes several different types of regulatory mechanisms that can act as reinforcement. External regulation corresponds to the lowest level of self-determination, where behavior is motivated by a desire for reward or punishment avoidance. Interjected regulation occurs when behavior is driven by internal pressures such as obligation or guilt. Under identified regulation, individuals identify with or find personally important the reasons for performing an activity. Finally, under integrated regulation, the regulator is actually consistent with an individual’s other values and needs and becomes part of one’s self-identity. This latter type of regulation is the closest to intrinsic motivation (Guay et al., 2010). Educators typically consider intrinsic motivation to be more desirable than extrinsic motivation, and some research suggests that the learning outcomes of intrinsic motivation are better than those obtained under extrinsic motivation (Ryan, Connell, & Plant, 1990).
Closely related to values are interests, which refer to an “interactive relation between an individual and certain aspects of his or her environment” (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000, p. 152). Interests are content-specific, can be viewed as both a state and a trait, and entail both cognitive and affective components. There is a wealth of empirical evidence that connects interest with performance or achievement (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000). The literature on interests distinguishes between individual, or personal, interest and situational interest. Individual interest refers to a relatively stable trait developed with respect to a particular subject or topic. This type of interest leads to persistence at a task over long periods of time, closer attention, ability to focus, and increased learning and enjoyment, even among young children. Situational interest, on the other hand, is more immediate, affective, and transitory, depending on the task environment (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000). Thus, some have used the metaphor of “catch” to refer to situational interest and “hold” to refer to individual interest. Task features likely to encourage greater interest include personal relevance, novelty, activity level, and comprehensibility (Hidi & Baird, 1986, as cited in Eccles & Wigfield, 2002).
Finally, an individual’s goals are related to his or her reasons for engaging with tasks. Goals can be subdivided into mastery goals (which can be compared with intrinsic values) and performance goals (which can be compared with extrinsic motivation) (Broussard & Garrison, 2004). Mastery goals focus on learning for the sake of learning, whereas performance goals emphasize high achievement. Mastery goals are associated with high perceived ability, task analysis and planning, and the belief that effort improves one’s ability. On the other hand, performance goals are associated with judgments about achieving, grades, or external rewards. An alternative framework for categorizing goals is to compare ego-involved goals (similar to performance goals) with task-involved goals (similar to mastery goals). Ego-involved goals focus on maximizing favorable impressions of competence. Those with ego-involved goals are preoccupied with questions like, Will I look smart? or Will I outperform others? Ames (1992) argues that students with ego-involved goals are more likely to select tasks they know they can complete. In contrast, task-involved goals focus on task mastery and increased competence. Students with task-involved goals are preoccupied with the questions, How can I do this task? and What will I learn? Such students are more likely to choose challenging tasks. As Eccles & Wigfield (2002) observe, mastery goals are associated with the strongest empirical evidence to date and have been linked to self-competence, self-concept, effort attributions, increased persistence at difficult tasks, and use of cognitive strategies related to monitoring, problem-solving, deep processing of information, and self-regulation.
What do I have to do to succeed in this Task?
A third strand of contemporary motivation research has focused on the question, What do I have to do to succeed in this task? Broussard and Garrison (2004) argue that this strand of research led to the development of self-regulation and volition theories, which both share an attempt to connect motivation with cognition. For example, self-regulated learners have been shown to use a variety of strategies, have high self-efficacy, and set goals for themselves. Self-regulated learners also monitor their own activities, evaluate their performance, and experience reactions to evaluation outcomes. The valence of a person’s reaction to evaluation depends on the way that successes and failures are framed, with positive reactions more likely to spur increased motivation than negative ones. Thus, self-regulation theory postulates that individuals can fortify their own motivation by engaging in a number of self-regulatory strategies, such as setting appropriate and achievable goals, applying learning strategies, and monitoring and evaluating progress toward goals (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2007).
Similarly, Linnenbrink and Pintrich (2002) offer a model of the relationship between motivation and cognition that incorporates students’ prior achievement, social aspects of the learning setting, motivational variables (e.g., expectancies and values), and cognitive variables (background knowledge, learning strategies, metacognition, and self-regulation). This model depicts motivation as both affecting and being affected by cognition, and both of these are, in turn, affected by social context. The model also portrays cognition and motivation as affecting academic engagement and achievement. Finally, Corno (1993) proposes volition theory, defining volition as strength of will, akin to conscientiousness, discipline, self-direction, resourcefulness, and striving. Corno argues that the effect of motivation on behavior is mediated by volition. In other words, motivation may lead to a decision to act, but volition is what determines whether those decisions are implemented. Whereas motivation helps to determines goals, volition supports management and execution of those goals.A wealth of empirical evidence on motivation exists, including research substantiating basic characteristics of the trait (such as domain specificity and the existence of gender differences), as well as research linking motivation to other types of learning outcomes. First, although it seems reasonable to suppose that an individual’s levels of motivation will vary across domains depending on his or her specific interests, there is some evidence that motivation in one domain may generalize to other domains. For example, Gottfried (1990) found that motivation in reading predicted later motivation in reading, science, and social studies. At the same time, motivation in math appeared to relate more strongly to other math constructs (e.g., students’ perceptions of math competence and teachers’ ratings of math achievement) than to motivation in other subject areas, suggesting that motivation to learn math among lower elementary students may be less generalizable to other subjects. In general, research suggests that the domain specificity of motivation and self-concept tends to increase with age, particularly as students accrue more educational experiences and as the curriculum begins to reflect departmentalization of academic subjects (Gottfried, et al., 2001). Some evidence also supports the presence of gender differences. For example, Lange and Adler (1997) report that teachers rated girls significantly higher than boys on intrinsic motivation and mastery-oriented behaviors, although achievement and class grades for these two groups were the same. Guay et al. (2010) found girls to have higher intrinsic motivation for reading and writing than boys did. However, boys had higher intrinsic motivation for math than girls did.
Those working in the field of motivation argue that its importance as an educational outcome stems from its relationship to achievement and performance in a variety of domains. First, researchers argue that encouraging motivation in children is critical because it predicts motivation later in life (Broussard & Garrison, 2004; Gottfried, 1990). Gottfried (1990) found that academic intrinsic motivation at ages 7 and 8 predicts subsequent motivation, even after controlling for IQ, achievement, and socioeconomic status. Further, the stability of this relationship increases from ages 8 to 9. Thus, highly motivated 7- and 8-year-olds tend to grow into highly motivated 9-year-olds.
Motivation is also related to achievement and IQ. Research demonstrates a relatively consistent relationship between motivation and achievement in reading and math (Broussard & Garrison, 2004; Gottfried, 1990; Lange & Adler, 1997). Intrinsically motivated first-grade students tend to have higher achievement in these subjects than extrinsically motivated students, and mastery (or intrinsic) motivation predicts reading and math achievement, whereas judgment (or extrinsic) motivation does not. In third grade, both types of motivation predict reading achievement, whereas intrinsic motivation alone predicts math achievement. Moreover, the relationship between motivation and achievement appears to strengthen with age. By age 9, students with high levels of motivation consistently exhibit higher achievement and class grades than students with low motivation (Broussard & Garrison, 2004). Similarly, Lange and Adler (1997) report that intrinsically motivated students in third grade through fifth grade tend to have higher academic self-efficacy, exhibit higher levels of mastery behavior, and have higher reading and math achievement. Indeed, Lange and Adler found that motivation contributes to the prediction of achievement over and above the effects of ability. Typically, researchers have used such findings to support the conclusion that motivation leads to achievement.
Gottfried (1990) also found a relationship between motivation and achievement, but she maintains that the causal relationship works in the opposite direction. Similar to results from other studies, Gottfried found that elementary-age children with higher academic intrinsic motivation tend to have higher achievement and IQ, more positive perceptions of their academic competence, and lower academic anxiety. However, in Gottfried’s study, early achievement more strongly predicted later motivation than the reverse. Whereas motivation was mildly correlated with later achievement, the strongest correlations were between achievement at ages 7 and 8 and motivation at age 9, such that high achievement at an early age was associated with high motivation at a later age. Similarly, high IQ at ages 7 and 8 is predictive of high motivation at age 9. However, Gottfried speculates that motivation may be predictive of achievement in the longer-term through one of two possible mechanisms. First, motivation is strongly related to contemporaneous achievement, which is highly predictive of later achievement. Second, early motivation is predictive of later motivation, which is strongly related to contemporaneous achievement.
Motivation is related to a number of other academic factors, including several so-called 21st century skills identified as important in preparing students for college, the workforce, and lifelong learning. For example, motivation has been linked to critical thinking. Definitions of critical thinking vary widely, but common elements of most definitions include the following component skills: analyzing arguments (Ennis, 1985; Facione, 1990; Halpern, 1998; Paul, 1992) making inferences using inductive or deductive reasoning (Ennis, 1985; Facione, 1990; Paul, 1992; Willingham, 2007), judging or evaluating (Case, 2005; Ennis, 1985, Facione, 1990; Lipman, 1988; Tindal & Nolet, 1995), and making decisions or solving problems (Ennis, 1985; Halpern, 1998; Willingham, 2007).
In addition to skills or abilities, critical thinking also entails dispositions. These dispositions, which can be seen as attitudes or habits of mind, include factors such as open- and fair-mindedness, a propensity to seek reason, inquisitiveness, a desire to be well-informed, flexibility, and respect for and willingness to entertain diverse viewpoints (Bailin et al., 1999; Ennis, 1985; Facione, 1990; Halpern, 1998; Paul, 1992). The disposition to think critically has been defined as the “consistent internal motivation to engage problems and make decisions by using critical thinking” (Facione, 2000, p. 65). Thus, student motivation is viewed as a necessary precondition for the exercise of critical thinking skills and abilities. Similarly, Halonen (1995) notes that a person’s propensity or disposition to demonstrate higher-order thinking relates to his or her motivation. Halpern (1998) argues that effort and persistence are two of the principle dispositions that support critical thinking, and Paul (1992) maintains that perseverance is one of the “traits of mind” that render someone a critical thinker. Thus, motivation appears to be a supporting condition for critical thinking in that unmotivated individuals are unlikely to exhibit critical thought.
On the other hand, a few motivation researchers have suggested the causal link goes the other way. In particular, motivation research suggests that difficult or challenging tasks, particularly those emphasizing higher-order thinking skills, may be more motivating to students than easy tasks that can be solved through rote application of a predetermined algorithm (Turner, 1995). Pintrich’s framework holds that cognition and motivation affect one another, that both affect academic achievement, and that both, in turn, are affected by the social context of learning (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Pintrich, 2003).
Motivation is also related to met cognition, which is defined most simply as “thinking about thinking.” Other definitions include the following:
“The knowledge and control children have over their own thinking and learning activities” (Cross & Paris, 1988, p. 131).
“Awareness of one’s own thinking, awareness of the content of one’s conceptions, an active monitoring of one’s cognitive processes, an attempt to regulate one’s cognitive processes in relationship to further learning, and an application of a set of heuristics as an effective device for helping people organize their methods of attack on problems in general” (Hennessey, 1999, p. 3).
“The monitoring and control of thought” (Martinez, 2006, p. 696).
Met cognition entails two components: met cognitive knowledge and met cognitive regulation. Met cognitive knowledge includes knowledge about oneself as a learner and about the factors that might impact performance (declarative), knowledge about strategies (procedural), and knowledge about when and why to use strategies (conditional). Met cognitive regulation is the monitoring of one’s cognition and includes planning activities, monitoring or awareness of comprehension and task performance, and evaluation of the efficacy of monitoring processes and strategies. Insights experienced while monitoring and regulating cognition play a role in the development and refinement of met cognitive knowledge. In turn, cognitive knowledge appears to facilitate the ability to regulate cognition. The two are empirically related and may be integrated in the form of met cognitive theories, which are formal or informal frameworks for representing and organizing beliefs about knowledge.
In the context of met cognition, motivation is defined as “beliefs and attitudes that affect the use and development of cognitive and met cognitive skills” (Schraw et al., 2006, p. 112). Met cognition entails the management of affective and motivational states, and met cognitive strategies can improve persistence at challenging tasks (Cross & Paris, 1988; Martinez, 2006). As Turner (1995) observes, “because strategy use is effortful and time-consuming and because it requires active monitoring and evaluation, it is an indicator of students’ cognitive engagement in literacy” (p. 419). Effortful control, which refers to the ability to monitor and regulate the impact of emotions and motivational states on one’s performance, is one aspect of the executive functioning inherent in met cognition. Research suggests that effortful control among preschool- and elementary-age children is associated with better social relationships at school, higher academic engagement, and improved achievement (Eisenberg, 2010).
This section reviews the empirical literature on the motivation levels of elementary-age children, followed by an investigation of how motivation develops and fluctuates over time with age.
Conducting research in 1990, Gottfried concluded that little was yet known about the intrinsic motivation of elementary-age children. Subsequent research has uncovered a few insights concerning the development of motivation over time. First, researchers generally appear to agree that intrinsic motivation in children is initially quite high (Broussard & Garrison, 2004; Stipek, 1996). For example, Entwisle et al. (1986) found that first-grade children have very positive self-concept and high academic expectations for themselves. However, research suggests that motivation tends to decline over time once children leave elementary school (Broussard & Garrison, 2004; Guthrie, 2000). For example, Miller & Meece (1997) observe that students’ interest in reading and writing for pleasure declines with age. There are a few apparent exceptions to this line of thought. First, Guthrie (2000) found no differences in terms of intrinsic motivation between third and fifth graders. Second, Gottfried (1990) found that students’ preference for difficult tasks (an indicator of motivation) appears to increase between 7 and 8 years of age, and domain-general motivation increases between third and fourth grade.
Some research suggests that motivation becomes increasingly differentiated both within and across school subjects with age. For example, Eccles & Wigfield (2002) note that children attach more value to activities at which they excel over time, suggesting they will increasingly be more motivated to learn in subjects in which they experience success. In a longitudinal study of children’s motivation and achievement in reading and math, motivation for learning math was found to be almost uniquely predicted by prior math achievement and prior math motivation (Gottfried, 1990). Guay et al. (2010) reviewed the literature on differentiation of motivation, concluding that children aged 5–7 typically do not differentiate between subject areas, whereas children age 8–11 tend to have more accurate self-perceptions of their relative strengths and weaknesses across subject areas. In a study of the development of motivation in 425 students in first grade through third grade, Guay et al. found that differentiation between school subjects did increase with age, with intrinsic motivation especially likely to vary between subjects for older students. In addition, motivation was found to become increasingly differentiated within reading over time. In particular, students appear to distinguish multiple types of motivation within reading as they progress through school, including intrinsic, identified, and regulated motivation. In other words, although young children may not be able to distinguish between engaging in an activity because they enjoy it and performing a task because they have been told to do so, older students appear to make this distinction (Guay et al., 2010).
There are several challenges to assessing motivation, especially in children, who may not be capable of providing unbiased, generalized responses regarding their goals, values, interests, and effort. In addition, cognitive aspects of motivation are not directly observable. Motivation is most commonly assessed using self-report measures or rating scales completed by teachers or parents. Several published instruments exist, but these typically have to be modified for administration to young children. Other researchers have used behavioral indicators, such as free-choice persistence, use of strategies, persistence at challenging tasks, and acts of volition. Because of the link between the classroom evaluation environment and the expression of motivation, recommendations for designing assessments of motivation tend to overlap with recommendations for fostering motivation in the classroom. Several task characteristics are likely to elicit evidence of student motivation. In general, researchers recommend using tasks of moderate difficulty that can be differentiated according to student ability and interest. In addition, novel and authentic tasks stimulate engagement and interest, and tasks that are open-ended, as opposed to tightly structured, are more likely to promote motivation.
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