Resources dealing with motivation
in Student Motivation
Authored by: Steven
across the country are frustrated with the challenge of how to
motivate the ever increasing number of freshmen students entering
college who are psychologically, socially, and academically unprepared
for the demands of college life. Such students often exhibit maladaptive
behavior such as tardiness, hostility towards authority, and unrealistic
standard approach is to address the problem as an academic issue
through remedial or developmental instruction. Developmental education
programs however do not address the whole problem. Lack of motivation
is not limited to the academically weak student. Successful remedial
and study strategies courses aimed at the underprepared student
have demonstrated that students who really want to improve their
skills can do so when motivated. However, even the best remedial
instruction programs have failed to positively impact the student
who is both underprepared academically and unmotivated. When students
have both a lack of academic skills and lack motivation, the greater
problem is motivation (Kelly, 1988). Faculty often have neither
the time or inclination to address difficult motivational issues
in the classroom, consequently, the task of trying to effectively
motivate such students often falls to academic advisors.
about the role of motivation in academic achievement and what
can be done about it vary widely among college faculty, administrators,
and student services professionals. Consideration about unmotivated
students opens a Pandora’s box of questions: Can anything be done
about these students? Can motivation be taught? What kind of strategies
can be used to influence motivation? Is this time wasted that
might better be used on those students who are already motivated?
problem of devising effective strategies that influence motivation
relies initially on the identification of specific motivational
factors. The histories of psychology and education are abundant
with research on motivation and its effect on behavior. The study
of motivation in education has undergone many changes over the
years, moving away from reinforcement contingencies to the more
current social-cognitive perspective emphasizing learners’ constructive
interpretations of events and the role that their beliefs, cognitions,
affects, and values play in achievement (Pintrich and Schunk,
definitions, and theory
specific motivational factors have come to light in recent educational
research from the social cognitive approach including: Intrinsic
Goal Orientation, Extrinsic Goal Orientation, Task Value, Control
of Learning Beliefs, and Self-Efficacy for Learning and Performance.
These factors are defined as:
Goal Orientation is
having a goal orientation toward an academic task that indicates
the students’ participation in the task is an end all to itself
rather than participation being a means to an end. Also included
here is the degree to which students perceive themselves to
be participating in a task for reasons such as challenge, curiosity,
and mastery (Garcia, McKeachie, Pintrich, & Smith, 1991).
Goal Orientation concerns
the degree to which students perceive themselves to be participating
in a task for reasons such as grades, rewards, performance evaluation
of others, and competition. Students with high in extrinsic
goal orientation engage in learning tasks as the means to an
end. The main concern here is that students with high Extrinsic
Goal Orientation relate to issues other than those directly
related to participating in the task itself (Garcia et al.,
Value refers to students’
evaluation of how interesting, how important, and how useful
the task is. High task value should lead to more involvement
in learning. Task value refers to the students’ perceptions
of the course material in terms of interest, importance, and
utility (Garcia et al., 1991).
of Learning Beliefs refers to students’ belief that their efforts to learn will
result in positive outcomes. It concerns the belief that outcomes
are contingent on one’s own effort, in contrast to external
factors such as the teacher. If students believe that their
efforts to study make a difference in their learning they should
be more likely to study more strategically and effectively.
That is, if students feel that they can control their academic
performance, they are more likely to put forth the effort to
effect the desired changes (Garcia et al., 1991).
for Learning and Performance comprises two aspects of expectancy: expectancy for success
and self-efficacy. Expectancy for success refers to performance
expectations, and relates specifically to task performance.
Self-efficacy is a self-appraisal of one’s ability to accomplish
a task and one’s confidence in possessing the skills needed
to perform that task (Garcia et al., 1991).
Anxiety has been found
to be negatively related to expectancies as well as to academic
performance. Test anxiety is thought to have two components:
a worry, or cognitive component, and an emotionality component.
The worry component refers to students’ negative thoughts that
disrupt performance, whereas the emotionality component refers
to affective and physiological arousal aspects of anxiety. Cognitive
concern and preoccupation with performance have been found to
be the greatest sources of performance decrement. Training in
the use of effective learning strategies and test-taking skills
should help reduce the degree of anxiety (Garcia et al., 1991).
factors identified in the social-cognitive model of motivation
can be narrowed to three motivational constructs: expectancy,
value, and affect. The expectancy construct assesses perceptions
of self-efficacy and control beliefs of learning. The self-efficacy
construct postulated by Bandura in his social learning theory
has guided extensive motivational research. The second construct
of expectancy is a refined construct based on Rotter’s locus of
control. Rotter’s locus of control construct, first presented
in 1966, is perhaps one of the most highly researched concepts
in modern psychological study.
value construct includes intrinsic and extrinsic goal orientation
as well as task value beliefs. Ryan, Connell, and Deci (1985)
who researched the role of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
in their “Cognitive Evaluation Theory” argue that perceptions
of autonomy and competence are fundamental to intrinsic motivation.
Commitment to educational attainment and learning are necessary
to sustain motivation. Commitment to learning is a syndrome of
variables such as belief in the value of learning.
third motivational construct is affect and can be measured in
terms of test-anxiety. A meta-analysis of 562 studies that related
test anxiety and academic achievement found that test anxiety
does cause poor performance, is negatively related to self-esteem,
and is directly related to students’ fear of negative evaluation
theory in successful institutional practice
then can educational institutions use these identified motivational
constructs to help students be more successful? Colleges must
move beyond developmental instruction alone and address motivation
issues in a more comprehensive manner. One important consideration
is early identification of and attention to at-risk student problems.
It is well documented that addressing retention issues early in
the student’s first year of college is critical. Historically,
at least half of all students who drop out of college do so during
their freshmen year (Noel, 1985; Terenzini, 1986). Many of these
students leave during the first six to eight weeks of their initial
semester according to Blanc, Debuhr, and Martin (1983). These
statistics have remained relatively unchanged in recent years.
nationwide do a good job identifying new freshmen students who
are academically at-risk. Institutions use a number of academic
assessment instruments e.g., ACT, ASSET, COMPASS, SAT, and ACCUPLACER. Since assessing
motivation is less standardized and less common at educational
institutions, another option may be to consider already identified
motivational differences between academically prepared and unprepared
students. Use of informal observations
or tools such as the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire
(MSLQ) can help identify these students. (Find more information
regarding the MSLQ see http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Learner_autonomy. Additionally, a portion of the MSLQ can be seen via Indiana University http://www.indiana.edu/~p540alex/MSLQ.pdf .
a study of academically prepared and underprepared freshmen orientation
students, Howey (1999) found clear motivational differences between
academically prepared and underprepared community college freshmen
orientation students. Specifically, underprepared students are
more extrinsically motivated, see more value in study strategies
offered in the course, have low self-efficacy beliefs, and suffer
more from test anxiety. Academically prepared students, on the
other hand, have more internalized locus of control beliefs, greater
self-efficacy, and are less affected by test anxiety. Academically
prepared students may be better served by emphasizing goal orientation
(major selection) and related career information, critical thinking,
leadership training, or service learning opportunities. Implications
are that due to identified differences in the motivational constructs
of expectancy, value, and affect, college administrators may want
to consider more homogeneous grouping, based on academic readiness,
of freshmen orientation students in order to better address individual
discussed previously, early intervention is critical to improving
the success rate and retention of at-risk students. In addition
to providing an opportunity for timely intervention, freshmen
orientation course material and textbooks are typically designed
specifically to address motivation and study strategies. Clearly
one venue with high potential to positively impact student motivation
to succeed in college is through a customized and targeted freshman
advisors can do
addition to a systematic approach through a freshmen seminar course
there are also strategies advisors can use to influence motivational
changes when meeting with their advisees individually. The mere
act of meeting with advisees on a regular basis and expressing
interest and concern beyond just their class schedule and program
requirements is critical in itself. Carl Roger’s Person Centered
Therapy, including the concepts of unconditional positive regard
and reflection, influenced those of us in graduate counseling
programs in the 70s and is still relevant to our understanding
of how important relational issues are to advisees. Habley (2003)
states “Advising is the only opportunity on campus in which students
have the opportunity for on-going, one on one interaction with
a concerned representative of the institution.”
and fuzzy relations, however, may not be enough to create significant
changes of behavior in the unmotivated student. Unfortunately,
a detailed explanation of specific techniques for changing behavior
is an article or perhaps a course all by itself. We know that
major and career exploration is helpful for students who lack
is another approach that may be helpful in working with students
with other motivational factors; a technique relevant to self-regulated
learning and as a problem solving approach. This technique specifically
is to get the advisee more involved in the process of coming up
with their own strategies for addressing a problem. For example,
rather than focusing on how unfair or boring a particular instructor
may be, students should be asked to generate their own ideas on
what they could do to improve the situation. If students can’t
come up with any ideas on their own, advisors can ask them to
pick what might work best from a list of suggestions generated
by the advisor. Follow-up meetings to refine strategies will be
summary, advisors may find it helpful when working with unmovtivated
students to approach the problem from a motivational constructs
framework. The identification of motivational issues based
on the constructs of expectancy (self-efficacy and locus of control
beliefs), value (goal orientation or task value concerns), or
affect (test anxiety), may be helpful in developing specific strategies
toward greater success in college.
Authored by:Steven C. Howey
Coordinator of Advising, Counseling, and Career Development (Retired)
Hutchinson Community College (KS)
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Cite the above resource using APA style as:
Howey, S.C. (2008). Factors in student motivation. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site [insert link here].