An essay on Motivation, Learning and Group work

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This essay talks about three important aspects of human behaviour. Firstly, it describes motivation in general and later its implication in my personal terms. Secondly it gives an insight on my approaches to learning. Thirdly it identifies and discusses various issues that may arise in working as a group and how I would attempt to address the same. Finally it offers my personal experiences and certain conclusions.

Further, this essay also recognizes and highlights the concepts and theories of motivation, learning and group work that are applicable or relevant to my reasons for doing a master's program at Bangor University, my learning approach and my behaviour in a group; and how they fit in.

Motivation - Activation of Motives:

Business Dictionary (2010) defines motivation as "Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested in and committed to a job, role or subject, and to exert persistent effort in attaining a goal." In more simple words, Motivation, from its various definitions, can be understood as a process or a set of processes that activates and energizes action or behaviour; Motive as the underlying factor that influences behaviour; Motivated as the feeling of being in the state of mind driven by any internal or external factor and Motivating as influencing and indulging other people to act in a particular manner. It involves selecting or setting certain goals as well as deciding on the means to achieve those ends. From these, the basic elements of motivation have been identified as follows: 'Intensity' of an individual's behaviour, 'direction' of the individual's behaviour towards the desired goals and the individual's 'persistence' to keep trying. Hence the 'ultimate goal' can be derived to be the basic driving force of motivation. This notion is supported and confirmed by the Content Approach to theories of motivation. (Ashwathapa, 2007).

Also it is evident from the various definitions of motivation that the motivating factors are of two types. Internal or Intrinsic factors which are present within an individual makes one behave for one's personal satisfaction. For example an employee who says 'I am not happy with my report; I can do better' can be said to be internally motivated or self-motivated. On the other hand, External or Extrinsic factors are the influences which are present in the environment of an individual. For example in the same context, an employee who says 'I will perform better than him/her' can be said to be motivated by competition which is an external factor present in the work environment. I am motivated by a combination of both intrinsic as well as extrinsic factors discussed in the following paragraphs. Hence I disagree with the theory of motivation given by Waitley (2010) in his article Motivation from within where he has argued that "Motivation is a contraction of motive and action, an inner force that compels behaviour. It comes from within, not from any external circumstance."

Factors that motivated me and how:

Why study after graduation?

The main and most dominating factor that motivated me to pursue a post graduation course has been my passion for education and for succeeding academically. I have always had an outstanding performance in school. Having broken several records in graduation school and set the bars high for my peers and juniors, my academic graph has always shown a positive and upward trend. My desire to continue this trend fits in Sir David McClelland's Achievement Motivation Theory; I want to excel in whatever I do with an extra effort to do it better than last time. It also corresponds to Sir Clayton Alderfer's definition of Growth needs, self-esteem and self-actualization being my major concerns. But I personally disagree on his view that 'the importance of needs decrease in strength as they become satisfied.' (Mullins, 2007, p. 261) Also Abraham Maslow (1943) quoted that "satisfied need is no longer a motivator." (Mullins, 2007, p. 258) On the contrary, excellence in education has been and still is my biggest motivation throughout since 18 years, although this need got satisfied several times before. But there are also a number of other elements like financial and moral support as well as an academic push from my family, friends and most importantly my teachers that gave a boost to my internal motivation. These can be categorized as external factors of motivation.

Why MBA at Bangor?

Having graduated in Bachelor's of Management Studies, the main reason for choosing MBA is that I aspire to become a successful entrepreneur after completing a PhD in management. Through my personal research during graduation I discovered that an MBA degree from a reputed university provides one with a distinct advantage over those without. My interests lie high in all aspects of management and I am sure this course will enrich me with both theoretical as well as practical insights into all dimensions of the corporate world. But being an extrovert, I like to explore new things, people and places. Having parents from different corners of the world and visits to parts of UK, India and Mauritius have given me an understanding of the various aspects and the similarities and differences that exist between the western and the eastern societies. In accordance of my international bent, I am confident that committing a year to business studies in the Student's City - Bangor will be suitable for me to achieve my purposes. After all, what can be better than graduating from a highly rated international university in UK, best in research (Bangor University Website) and with a Gold Scholarship to add to my motivation!!! This relates to Sir Frederic Herzberg's Two - Factor Theory (1947). The environmental factors like peaceful location appropriate for studies, proper facilities like library, hi-tech classrooms, convenient distance from the halls of residence, co-operative colleagues, helpful staff, informative lectures, health and safety measures etc are available at Bangor to avoid any kind of dissatisfaction.

In the following diagram I have attempted to recreate Herzberg's Two - Factor Theory model cited in Mullins, 2007 (8th ed, p. 262, figure 7.6) to suite my case:

Hygiene/Maintenance factors

Health and Safety

Proper facilities (library, internet, travel etc)

Peaceful environment to study

Interpersonal relations with peers and staff


Motivation and Job (study) Satisfaction



Recognition and appreciation

Responsibility (extra-curricular)

Personal growth and advancement

Motivators/Growth factors

During my stay at Bangor, the degree of these growth factors will determine the level of my satisfaction. I would like to conclude about motivation by saying what I follow - there is no harm in dreaming big, but you should also keep the aspirations and determination to achieve it...!!!

My approach to learning:

The term learning can be explained as a spontaneous and continuous process which results in adding to or changing one's knowledge. Cobb (2009) gives a more structured definition of this term as "Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviours, and attitudes." Many researchers mentioned subsequently show that different people acquire any one of the three approaches to learning .i.e. Surface, Deep or Strategic approach, which is highly influenced by a number of factors such as demographics, personality types, task, situation etc. A person is or is said to become a Surface learner when he/she is not interested in the task or its results. Such a person would perform without having his/her head in the game and invest less time and efforts in learning. On the other hand, a Deep learner is interested in gaining in-depth knowledge of any given subject matter, irrespective of the results. A Strategic learner lies somewhere in between the Deep and Surface learners but is highly result-oriented. (Biggs, 1987)

Gow and Kember (1990) argued that there is a direct relationship between age and the deep approach to learning. As individuals mature with age, they tend to move away from surface approach and gradually acquire the state of a deep learner. Also there is an inverse relationship between the level of education or time consumed and the strategic approach to learning. This is true in general. But I have observed amongst my peers that most of the times people maintain a particular learning approach unless faced with an extreme or a completely new situation. This is because one can eat only up to what one can digest. For example, a below average student having a surface approach may not be able to perform beyond a specific level due to his learning capacity being confined to a certain limit. But when faced with an easier or more appealing environment, the same individual may switch to a deeper approach to learning. Trigwell and Prosser (1991) concluded in their research article, that the quality of learning can better be improved by encouraging a deeper approach rather than discouraging surface approach; though the latter is much easier than the former. This shows that the learning approach that an individual adopts can be modified to some extent by adjusting the environmental features.

In another study, Kember (1996) discovered that the main factor which distinguishes the different approaches to learning is the intention to understand and/or memorize. He describes surface learners as people who plainly adapt to memorizing and reproducing things while deep learners seek to understand the underlying meaning of things. His article, The intention to both memorise and understand: Another approach to learning?, highlights evidences of another approach to learning which combines both memorizing and understanding. His work also provides answers to the apparent 'Paradox of the Asian Student'. According to me, one of the reasons for this is that Asia, being the most populated continent, demonstrates extreme levels of internal competition. The mantra is survival of the fittest, thereby producing more of Strategic learners.

My approach to learning rightly fits in the above said theory. By using the tool 'The Approaches to Studying Questionnaire' by Gibbs (1992), I discovered that I scored the highest on 'Achieving Orientation'. This makes me a Strategic Learner and is supported by the notion that Strategic learners are characterised by high achievement motivation (Watkins 1982). As mentioned earlier, I strive hard to be the best in whatever I do. Hence I start the preparations well in advance so that the work/study is properly organized and remains on track throughout. Being a perfectionist, I put in extra efforts to enhance my work so as to make it distinguishable from those of my competitors and set the bars high. I am usually not satisfied with satisfactory results. Want for more is what keeps me motivated to do better every time. My academic graph shows a positive and upward trend. I have been following this pattern of learning right since primary school. This relates to the viewpoint of Duff, Boyle, Dunleavy and Ferguson (2004) that "an individual's approach to learning is likely to be influenced by their prior educational experiences".

Thus being a strategic learner, I tend to seek feedback from my teachers every time. Much of my future performances are likely to be shaped on the basis of such feedbacks. This corresponds to the Behaviourist Approach to Learning which states that our past experience plays a major role in our learning and knowledge from our past experiences gives form to our consecutive behaviour. A positive or rewarding feedback indeed motivates me, but a negative or punishing feedback would motivate me even more to correct my mistakes and not repeat them in future. This is in contradiction with the Law of Effect according to which people tend to repeat behaviour that have had favourable consequence and avoid those that with unfavourable consequences. (Huczynski and buchanan, 2007)

To conclude, I think the best way to learn is to learn from our own mistakes as well as those of others.

Group work: Many brains better than one!!!

Business Dictionary (2010) defines the term Group as "A collection of individuals who have regular contact and frequent interaction, mutual influence, common feeling of camaraderie, and who work together to achieve a common set of goals." Every individual in their lifetime plays a part in not one but several groups. For example when you were born, you firstly belonged to a group called family, then to another group called society, later to a group of friends, colleagues, organization and so on. Hence human groups can be said to be omnipresent whether they are made intentionally or unintentionally, formal or informal. There are certain features that are common to all the members of a group. Adair (1986) has rightly identified these factors as consciousness, interaction, interdependence, common purpose, ability to work with others and a definable membership. Another common feature is the tendency to have dissimilarities since no two individuals are the same. These differences and the need to co-ordinate share and interact with each other give rise to conflicts of various types. Pelled (1996) provides a theoretical framework to explain the influence of demographic diversity amongst members of a group and its consequences on the performance of the group as well as on the outcomes of the group work. She suggests that such diversity results in improving the end results but may improve or decline the cognitive task performance which in turn depends upon the level of visibility and job-relatedness of each factor of demographic diversity.

One group in which I play a part daily is the MBA class. About a hundred pupils and a professor come together for three hours and engage ourselves in a discussion on a particular subject matter. This is nothing but group work. On 19th October, 2010, Bangor University had organized a one day workshop for international students to help us deal with problems that may arise while working in a multi-cultural group. The day started with allocating all students randomly (using chits) to small groups. A facilitator (staff) and a discussion room were assigned to each group. We were asked to fill up a questionnaire to determine our respective social styles and finding out where we stand on the following scale. This shows which style one uses in a work group.

On this grid, I emerged as an expressive driver having a 'Tell' orientation and giving almost equal emphasis to both task as well as people. A series of activities like case study, role playing, collective problem solving, games etc helped us identify the issues that may arise while working in a group and also the methods for handling or avoiding them appropriate to our social style. Using these experiences, I have mentioned below certain problems that I have experienced while working in a group and also that I anticipate may arise.

Problems and solutions:

One of the most common and frequently observed problems is Cohesiveness i.e. the extent of individual's attraction towards a group, persistence to stay in the group and willingness to participate. The number of students attending a particular professor's first lecture and last lecture is usually not the same. Similarly, some people may resist staying in a small work group thereby posing problem for the other group members. Nagel (2006) emphasised that it is important for a group to be cohesive since it has been found to be influencing the group's productivity as illustrated in the following diagram:

(Adapted from Organizational Behavior and Organizational Change, Groups & Teams; CSE & Enterprise Systems Center, Lehigh University, ppt)

In light of Nagel's view, group cohesion can be improved by bringing the group together more frequently, obtaining agreement of all members with group goals, physically isolating and rewarding the group; not individuals, increasing group status and administrating difficulties and if possible, maintaining a small group.

Being in a group of international students, I anticipate that Language and Cultural differences might also create difficulties in getting conformity in the group norms. My group for Organization and People's assignment consists of, one American, one Bangladeshi, two Chinese, two Indians, and myself. Also, the Indians are from two extreme parts of the country having distinct dialects. Though English is known to everyone, our ability to grasp the meaning of English words differs. The only solution that I see for this problem is patience (to wait till all members are clear with the discussion so far) and perseverance (determination to keep all members aligned on track) and encouraging others to have patience and perseverance. The cultural issues can be addressed by giving freedom to all members to put forth their respective cultural aspects and viewpoints.

Diversity in individual personalities can lead to a number of problems like Competition with members within the group, Ego clashes, Status issues, Impatience, Reluctance or Domination by a single member etc thus giving rise to intra-group conflict. In such a situation, I would play the role of a good listener and an active observer. I believe peaceful communication is the key to most problems. Every member has equal rights to voice their opinions as well as question others and it is their moral duty to respect other's viewpoints as well. Further a vote for majority may also be administered. In extreme cases, it would be better to diffuse the situation and continue in the next meeting.

Finally, the group as a whole may also face certain problems collectively like Floundering .i.e. beating around the bush, Loosing track or getting stuck, Social loafing, Group think etc which may delay the group work and result in being unable to meet the deadlines. When faced with such a dilemma, it is usually the responsibility of the group leader to address the issue and play an impartial role. It would be wise to encourage team spirit by identifying individual efforts and discourage any feuds, ridicule or ignorance. Exercises like brainstorming, brain stilling, electronic meeting, Delphi technique, second chance meeting, interactive or nominal group techniques etc can be employed. One member may be asked to play the role of a 'Devil's Advocate'. For further assistance, the matter may be taken to an external expert or professor. (Andrew et al, 1974)

Integrating motivation, learning and handling group issues:

Muzio (2010) demonstrates the interrelation between the three concepts. A person can have one or a combination of the six hidden factors of motivation: Truth, result, power, assistance, form and structure. There are chances of conflicts between people having incompatible motivations like between a power passionate and a result passionate person or between a truth passionate and a form passionate person. Such conflicts can be handles by two ways .i.e. either learning other people's motivation (asking 'why') or advertising your own motivation (telling 'why').


To close with, this essay has helped me identify the various internal and external factors that motivated me to engage in master's program at Bangor University and the theories of motivation that are applicable to the same. Based on the said motivational factors, I discovered that I am a strategic learner. Also having identified my social style as being that of an expressive driver, I would now be able to handle a work group more efficiently. Larger the group, bigger will be the challenges. But understanding oneself and others would make things much easier. This assignment has helped me with the same and also to correct some of my perceptions and I wish that it would similarly help all the readers as well.



This assignment has been a very enriching experience. I have had to consult several reference and text books, articles, journals, web sites etc to cull out ideas and information for the same. I have tried, as far as possible, to write it in a very simple language so that it is acceptable to all who wish to read it. Certain mistakes may have slipped and I would like to apologize for them. This work is the product of the combined efforts of my mind and heart - a work done with love and devotion, dedicated to Professor Sally Sambrook. I express my gratitude to all those who have given me assistance in making this venture less difficult.