Group Motivation in Educational Settings

3056 words (12 pages) Essay in Education

08/02/20 Education Reference this

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This research proposals article focus is on a potential study examining the possibility of motivating a large group of individuals in a classroom setting with the same motivational factor. The article covers current literature on motivation and how it pertains to education and learning. This establishes the importance and effect motivation has on learning and educational success. Dr. Weiner’s attribution theory framework is used as a lens in developing the proposed study on group motivation. The study consist of 100 subjects divided into four different domains based on their results of the Strengths Finder test. Those groups are then tasked with completing the same project and given the same motivational factor. Once completed those groups are divided up randomly and the project is re-created in the new groups with all other factors remaining identical as the first. The idea of the study is to determine if different personality types can all be motivated by the same factor. The article concludes with its hypothesis, limitations, and conclusion.

Group Motivation in Educational Settings


The concepts and theories around learning are vast and numerous and often coincide with each other. It’s generally understood that learning and formal education are vital in improving not only the quality of life for the individual learning but for society as a whole. With such an importance for education and learning it is equally important to understand what motivates individuals into perusing education and how that motivation translates over into actual learning. One of the major issue faced by educators, and those in educational psychology, are how to properly motivate learnings.

The Oxford Dictionary defines motivation as; “A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.” Bernard Weiner, a highly respected social psychologist, defines motivation as, “the study of why people think and behave as they do” (1986). While motivation is a broad term and has many different subcategories the focus for this research proposal deals with Attribution Theory. Attribution Theory was developed by Bernard Weiner and it states; “This theory presupposes that people attempt to understand the behavior of others by attributing feelings, beliefs, and intentions to them” (1986). The following section will be a further look into current research on motivation and Attribution Theory.

Literature Review

 Although attribution theory is typically involved more with social psychology, it has had an impact in the areas of educational, and motivational psychology as well (Weiner, 2010).  Success in education has been linked to motivation (Kuo, 2018). When a learner is not motivated by either, the material, or subject there is little formal academic success (Kuo, 2018). The reverse holds true, when a learner is interested and invested in the learning material or subject there is stronger motivation which leads to academic success (Davies et al., 2015). Upon seeing the connection between positive motivation and academic success it is easy to understand the importance of finding the best methods and practices for educators in motivating their students.

 Motivation in Education

“In physical education, the use of Harter’s perceived competence motivation theory, achievement goal theory, and self-determination theory are used to develop intrinsic motivation of students” (Davies et all., 2015). While Davies and the other authors of the article Intrinsic Motivation in Physical Education focus specifically on motivation in physical education, the theories and concepts are useful in all areas of motivation. They discuss using Harter’s perceived competence motivation theory which is, “the theory is that individuals are attracted to participate in activities at which they feel competent or capable and thus feel confident in succeeding” (Harter, 1978). The second theory they mention is achievement goal theory, which is defined as “competency-based aims that individuals target in evaluative settings, i.e. in sport. Originally, two distinctive achievement goals were identified based on the definition of personal competence: task and ego goals (Nicholls 1984)”. The last theory they discuss is self-determination which is defined as, “Self-Determination Theory (SDT) represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation and personality. SDT articulates a meta-theory for framing motivational studies, a formal theory that defines intrinsic and varied extrinsic sources of motivation, and a description of the respective roles of intrinsic and types of extrinsic motivation in cognitive and social development and in individual differences”( Ryan & Deci, 2000). While the application of those theories is in physical education they still applicable in formal education as they deal with motivation. All of those theories deal with intrinsic motivation and can be used to succeed in a classroom setting just as much as a gym class. Intrinsic motivation is defined as, “the behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you” (Davies et al., 2015). While intrinsic means within it still holds importance for educators in understanding how to motivate their learners. If a learner is not motivated by intrinsic factors then the educator needs to find ways to develop intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors.

Attribution Theory

As it was first stated in the introduction, attribution theory is yet another theory that deals with the motivation of learners. It has been established during the literature review that motivation leads to academic success. Attribution theory has been linked to increasing motivation within the fields of education (Weiner, 2010). However, we need to further explore attribution theory and its effects on education to better understand what further research needs to be conducted. Fritz Heider is credited with the creation of attribution theory, which is defined as, how individuals interpret events and how they relate to their thinking and behavior. It wasn’t until Weiner and his colleagues developed a theoretical framework in the 1970s that then became a major research model in psychology (Sullivan & Weiner, 1975). Their model is explained as the following:

Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do, i.e., attribute causes to behavior. A person seeking to understand why another person did something may attribute one or more causes to that behavior. A three-stage process underlies an attribution: (1) the person must perceive or observe the behavior, (2) then the person must believe that the behavior was intentionally performed, and (3) then the person must determine if they believe the other person was forced to perform the behavior (in which case the cause is attributed to the situation) or not (in which case the cause is attributed to the other person).

Attribution theory is dealing with the understanding of events and personal interpretations which causes behavior and that behavior is then used as motivation. In Kelley and Michela work, Attribution Theory and Research (1980) they discussed “a person’s interest become relevant to and entangled with the attribution process in a number of ways. They determine when he will become motivated to make attributions at all and, if so motivated, whether he seeks causal understanding in an open-ended way or is preoccupied with a particular casual question” (1980). In relation to this idea, a study was conducted to determine one of the conditions that may instigate the attribution process. Kelley and Michela discuss it in their article. The study was looking at the dependence of an individual on another person of the opposite sex. Each subject was assigned an individual to be that subjects date for a future outing. The subjects were to watch a videotape of a group discussion in which their individual person was in and to learn as much about them as possible. What was found was that the subjects were able to distinguish small details about their assigned individual when asked questions but could not give similar details about the others on the videotape. (Berscheid et at., 1976). The review of the study determined that when an individual has invested interest or dependence on another the subject shows greater motivation in understanding.

Literature Review Conclusion

The concepts of attribution theory can be applied to educators and how they can better understand their learners to improve educational motivation. As it was established at the beginning of the literature review, motivation is the key to educational success. Weiner’s attribution theory framework also demonstrated when an individual has an invested interest in understanding particular events and behaviors of others, a higher drive of motivation is attained. If educators use attribution theory to better understand their students they could then, in theory, better motivate them. One of the pitfalls of trying to motivate an entire class or group of learners is the fact that not everyone is motivated by the same things. This leads to the proposed research dealing with motivation in education.

Issues with Current Research

 While the current literature on motivation in education points to its importance and different theories, it fails to explain how to motivate an entire group or classroom as it pertains to education and learning. While intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is generally dependent on the individual, it is, however, possible to have a shared motivational factor among groups of individuals. Factors could be as simple as an entire sport teaming wanting to win a championship, their desire and motivation to win is shared by all on the team but the method of attaining said success could vary. This is the same issue in education and learning. While every student, or learner, wants to pass and succeed the means to motivation may vary. This leads to proposed further research into the possibility of motivating an entire group or personality type as it pertains to education and learning.

Proposed Research

If an educator could motivate learners on a large scale and not merely on an individual base, the rate at which academic success happens could improve. By using attribution theory along with other internal and external factors, a study would be conducted to identify if motivation on large scale with a variety of individuals and personality types is possible within an academic setting. The method in conduction said study would be as follows:


 A group of 100 individuals would be selected through a random selection. They would then take the Strengths Finder test. “The Strengths Finder test is based on Gallup’s 40-year study of human strengthens, within the test, there are 34 most common talents individuals possess. The 34 strengths are then broken into four domain categories: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking” (Rath, 2017). Those four categories are the personality types those individuals fall under and what their strengths are. After the participants complete the Strengths Finder test they would then be placed in their respected four domains; Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.

The idea of grouping the same domain individuals together is based on the concept that if they score the same on this strength/personality test they are more likely than not to be motivated by similar things. This concept is developed from attribution theory as you examine your personal experiences to determine belief and emotions which leads to developing motivation (Weiner, 2010).  Once broken into their domain groups they will be given a large task to complete together as a group. The task could range from developing a business plan or creating an educational exercise. All groups will be given the same take and the same reward for the top task. By giving the same task and reward it ensures that all groups are given the same opportunities and motivational factors. The final project, an i.e business plan will be evaluated and judged by a third party to ensure objectivity.

Once that is complete the same individuals will then be randomly placed into new groups, ignoring their Strengths Finder domain. This will then ensure there are different personality and strength types which mean more likely than not they are motivated by different factors. They would then create and complete similar projects such as a business plan or educational exercise. The same motivational factors from the first groupings will be used once more. It will be judged by the same third party and scored accordingly.


If the results from the first grouping of four are higher than the second grouping of four then the results point towards the conclusion that it is not possible to motivate a large group of individuals with the same motivational factors. It would take like personalities to be motivated by the same factors. However, if the second grouping of four scores higher than the first grouping of four then the concept of motivating a large group of individuals with the same motivational factors is than possible.


My hypothesis for the results of this study would be that it is not possible to motivate a large group of individuals with the same motivational factors successfully. The reason for this hypothesis is based on the current literature on motivation in education. The current literature points to the same factor, which is, being able to motivate an individual most successfully is accomplished on a personal level. While in our current educational system the majority of students are motivated to pass their classes or to achieve a high GPA it does not apply to all students. Simply getting a high grade or GPA does not translate into actual learning and it does not look at additional motivational factors.

Shortcomings of the Research

While there are limitations to the proposed research there is one issue greater than the others and that being personality types. The study could yield the results already discussed in current literature and that being motivation is possible but only on individual bases. Further limitations could be that while the study gives the same motivational factor in succeeding it does not take into account other intrinsic motivational factors of the study participants. The studies limitation of a small testing population of 100 participants could skew the results in either direction. An additional limitation could be using the same population subjects to complete a similar task, even if broken into new groups, could result in a lack of motivation to re-create a similar project to the project created beforehand. In addition, the business plan or educational exercise project may not be the best-suited group task to complete as it may require certain expertise and skills that not all subjects may possess, i.e. business or education background. All listed limitations could skew the results.


The current literature on motivation shows its importance on succeeding in all settings but particularly its importance in academics and learning. Weiner’s attribution theory framework was developed for social psychology but has merit in educational psychology as well. As discussed during the literature review when an individual has a personal interest or stake in something they are more engaged and motivated in succeeding in what they are involved in. The concept of motivating a large group or classroom with the same motivational factors with a high rate of success has yet to be researched. The potential uses for this data could greatly impact the success of current and future educators as it pertains to their learners. It could also start a new area of study within educational motivation by closely examining the connection between personality types and motivation in a group setting. It could also impact the way motivation it thought of.


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