Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beyond IQ Series # 5. Motivational orientation--Do I want to do this activity and why?

Background comment regarding this series

Interest in social-emotional learning and resiliency training (click here and here for just two examples) in education has shown a recent uptick on activity. Given this activity, IQs Corner is starting a series to explain the previously articulated Model of Academic Competence and Motivation (MACM), which was a model ahead of it's time (IMHO). The imporance of non-cognitive (conative) characteristics in learning have been articulated since the days of Spearman, the father of the construct of general intelligence. Richard Snow's work on the concept of "aptitude," which integrates cognitive and conative individual difference variables, is the foundation of the Beyond IQ MACM. Non-cognitive (cognitive) characteristics of learners are important for learning and are more manipulable (more likely to be modified via intervention) than intelligence. Thus, the MACM components make sense as potential levers for improving school learning and pursuing more well rounded life-long learners. This material comes a larger set of materials on the web (click here).

Current MACM Series Installment

This fifth installment in the Beyond IQ covers the broad MACM domain of Motivational Orientattion. [All installments in this series (and other related posts and research) can be found by clicking here].


Do I want to do this activity and why? Motivational Orientation

Student characteristics related to this question include, but are not limited to, achievement interests and values, intrinsic motivation, academic goal orientation, and social goals and their relations to motivation. Obviously, students who experience repeated and consistent school failure would, as a group, be predicted to respond in the negative to this question.

Motivational Orientation: The Social Cognitive Model

There is little doubt that the constructs of cognitive ability (intelligence) and motivation are the most commonly mentioned and researched determinants of school learning (Gagne & StPere, 2002; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002b). The “common belief within the general population is that both factors exert approximately equal causal influences on talent development” (Gagne & StPere, 2002, p. 71). Research generally supports the importance of motivation in academic achievement (DiPerna & Elliott, 2000; Stinnett, Oehler- Stinnet, & Stout, 1991). Although meta-analysis research has not supported the equal stature of both constructs, an average correlation of 0.34 has been reported between various indices of motivation and school learning (Parkerson, Lomax, Schiller, & Walberg, 1984). Thus, although not as powerful a predictor as cognitive ability (IQ), motivation is an important causal contributor to academic success.

Most contemporary research regarding the construct of motivation is based on a social cognitive model (Covington, 2000; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). Contemporary motivation models differ from the traditional and layperson view of motivation where students are classified as either motivated or not, or where motivation is viewed as a single continuum. Motivation is currently viewed as a multifaceted dynamic phenomenon where “learners can be motivated in multiple ways and that it is important to understand the how and why of learner motivation. This change in focus implies that educators should not label learners as ‘motivated’ or ‘not motivated’ in some global fashion” (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002b, p. 313).

According to the social cognitive model, motivation is not necessarily a stable trait of an individual and may vary as a function of the setting (e.g., prevailing classroom reward structures) (Covington, 2000) and specific subject matter domain (Bong, 2001). Also, understanding a student’s motivation requires knowing more than descriptive characteristics of the student (e.g., personality characteristics or cultural demographics) or the student’s specific contextual environments. Understanding an individual’s motivation requires a recognition and understanding of “the individual's active regulation of his or her motivation, thinking, and behavior that mediates the relationships between the person, context, and eventual achievement” (Linnenbrink &Pintrich, 2002b, p. 314). In other words, understanding a student’s motivation requires an attempt to peer into the “black box” of a student’s mind to understand their “thinking” about the what, where, why, and how of goal attainment. The interaction of social and academic motivation goals is addressed in the orientations towards others section of this paper. Clearly, contemporary social cognitive motivation models differ dramatically from earlier models of motivation that focused on drives and reinforcement (Covington, 2000; Wigfield & Eccles, 2002).

The Multiplicity of Goals

Contemporary motivation research suggests that students often try to achieve multiple goals that can be differentiated by content, or, the “cognitive representation of what it is that an individual is trying to achieve in a given situation” (Wentzel, 1999, p. 77). Ford (1992) delineated 3 general categories of individual goals—task goals, self-assertive social relationship goals, and integrative social relationship goals. According to Ford (1992), task goals are of five major types:

Mastery – trying to meet a challenging standard of achievement or improvement.
Task creativity – engaging in activities that invoke artistic expression or creativity.
Management – maintaining a productive and organized structure and order in daily life tasks.
Material gain – increasing the amount of material/tangible goods (or money) one has.
Safety – seeking an environment where one is secure, free from risk, and free from harm.

Goal Hierarchies

Not only may students have multiple goals, different students may have different implicit or explicit goal hierarchies (Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Wentzel, 1999). Bandura and Schunk (1981) suggested that, in the academic domain, the setting and linking of explicit near-term (proximal) sub-goals to larger long-term (distal) goals can produce greater task persistence, enhanced self- efficacy, and increased intrinsic interest in learning. It is hypothesized that students who perceive their present academic-related behavior as linked to long-term goals and objectives (indicating a linked hierarchical goal structure) tend to display more positive motivational and academic outcomes than students who do not maintain a positive future- oriented goal perspective (Wentzel, 1999). Hierarchical belief and goal systems appear important for sustaining (or undermining if not present) academic performance over time.

Key Families of Motivational Beliefs

No less than 13 different types of achievement-oriented beliefs, values, and characteristics are listed collectively under the 3 subdomains of Motivational Orientation, Interests and Attitudes, and Self-Beliefs. A variety of theorists have proposed similar, yet different, models of achievement motivation. For example, Linnenbrink and Pintrich (2002a) suggest that there are 4 key families of motivational beliefs—self-efficacy, attributions, intrinsic motivation, and goal orientations. According to Wigfield and Eccles (2002), the proliferation of slightly different models has resulted in a “proliferation of terms for constructs that on the surface are relatively similar. The clearest examples of this are the variety of related-to perceptions of ability and self- efficacy, and the variety of terms for different goal orientations” (Wigfield and Eccles, 2002, p. 4). The constructs listed under the broad umbrella of orientations towards self (motivations) represent my best (and acknowledged imperfect) attempt to provide a reasonable summary of this broad MACM domain. (double click on image to enlarge)

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