Is Motivation Always A Good Thing Education Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The word Always is rarely used within the social sciences as it suggests certainty, and with regards to human behaviour there are but few certainties. Motivation it seems is no longer considered a 'stable' personality trait (Kyndt, E. et al. (2011), but one which can affect and be affected by external and internal factors. Theories regarding motivation are plentiful and originate from behaviourists, humanists, gestalt psychologists and cognitive psychologists to name but a few. Some of the more well-known theories such as Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, Herzberg's two factor theory and McGregor's X Y theory are accredited with being the pioneering theories that has led to an increase in further studies and research regarding motivation; and more fundamentally within the context of education, motivation and its role (if any) in the learning process. I do not wish to be perceived as being ignorant of these theories; instead my intention is to focus on motivation in direct relation to the learning process from the perspectives of; goal orientation as proposed by Dweck (1986) ; extrinsic and intrinsic motivational theories and research including (although not explicitly denoted) self-determination theory (SDT) as developed by Deci and Ryan(1985), and finally approaches to learning such as deep learning (Marton and Säljö (1976)) (or otherwise mastery learning( Bloom (1974)) which is considered more likely to be developed autonomously and surface learning (Marton and Säljö (1976)) which is said to be developed heteronomously.

It is necessary to delineate what is meant by 'effective learning', and how is learning deemed to be effective? As defined in the Oxford dictionary, learning is 'The acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught'. The word 'effective' is defined as 'successful in producing a desired or intended result'. This allows for vast, ranging definitions as to what is considered to be effective learning. For the purpose of this essay, effective learning is considered as being the extent to which a desired or intended learning objective has been acquired and understood by a learner, so that they may call on it appropriately to aid future endeavours. But how is learning deemed to be effective? Moody and Sindre (2003) have stated that 'Currently, there is no standard instrument for evaluating learning effectiveness'; therefore drawing attention to a particular limitation concerning this essay. For the purposes of this essay, effective learning is thought to have taken place if the learner has a correct and in-depth understanding relative to the intended or desired learning outcome.

The definition of motivation has itself been heavily debated (Kleinginna (1981)), although theories suggesting there is more than one type of motivation have been largely accepted. The simplest differentiation of motivation suggests that there are predominantly two main types; intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is synonymous with 'internal' motivation, which arises from personal interest and enjoyment; something that is done for the sake of it (ERIC (2002:5)). Extrinsic motivation is associated with 'external' motivational factors, such as rewards and punishment. Extrinsic motivation is considered to be adverse and is often discussed from a negative perspective (ERIC (2002:5)). Further or alternative separations have been suggested (Kyndt, E. et al. (2011) and a 'grey area' has also been postulated regarding motivation, making differentiation between the two types difficult (ERIC (2002:5)).

Motivation has been studied from a variety of perspectives, including that of goal orientation. Research conducted by Dweck(1986) (Based on the earlier work of J.G Nicholls) suggests learners tend to set goals which are classified as being either learning orientated or performance orientated, the determination of which may relate to the two types of motivation previously discussed. Learning goals allow for opportunities in increasing understanding, competency and development of more conceptual ideas relating to a particular learning outcome (Chin and Brown (2000)). Performance goals are said to relate to praise or recognition of ability being sought by the learner, and negativity relating to their ability is eluded (Dweck(1986). In addition, approaches to learning have been found to diverge, research studies have shown this to have an influence on what is understood to be 'effective' learning (Murty V. et al. (2011)). Marton and Säljö (1976) developed a theory which divided approaches to learning into two distinct categories; deep learning and surface learning. A deep approach to learning focuses primarily on the understanding and meaning behind desired or intended learning outcomes and is achieved by embracing an autonomous learning style, so that a proportion of the education is governed by the learner; who in turn can be deemed self-sufficient (to an extent). A surface approach to learning focuses on confronting the learning outcome, merely with the outlook of completion (Kyndt, E. et al. (2011), and often arises from adopting a heteronomous style of learning; where learning is heavily governed by rules or laws. Rigid learning programmes predominantly administered by the tutor allow heteronomous learning to thrive and hampers autonomous learning. Theories surrounding approaches to learning have been developed further, notably in a research monograph written by Biggs (1987) relating learning approaches to motives. Thus far, selected theories surrounding motivation have been discussed along with theories of goal orientation and approaches to learning. Moving forward, the exploration of motivation in facilitating or undermining effective learning will commence using indicative discussions and conclusions formed through experimentation and applied research.

It is necessary to consider goals when discussing motivation, as motivation is partly defined as behavior resulting in an action directed towards a particular goal. Adaptive motivational patterns relating to learning goals and intrinsic motivation have been well documented, and are considered to be advantageous in stimulating 'effective', deep learning (Dweck (1986)). Benware and Deci in particular conducted a study supporting the notion that intrinsic motivation is increased when a goal is considered to be learning orientated (Heyman, G. and Dweck, C. (1992)). A more recent study also suggested a link between learning goals and intrinsic motivation (Valle, A. et al. (2010)) and since learning goals are said to promote and foster effective learning (Dweck, C. (1986)), it is plausible to suggest that intrinsic motivation may stimulate deep, effective learning. Additional research studies have indeed claimed an association between intrinsic motivation and a deep approach to learning (Vansteenkiste, M. and Deci, E. (2006)) in support of the initially hypothetical suggestion. The same cannot be as undoubtedly claimed regarding what would be considered as adaptive motivational patterns with regards to extrinsic motivation, particularly in relation to performance goals (Donald, J. (2002)), to which extrinsic motivation is more strongly associated. Extrinsic motivation can be seen to promote undesirable maladaptive motivational patterns (Mills and Blankstein (2000)). Correlations between a surface learning approach (which is considered to cause less effective learning) and extrinsic motivation have been observed in a study conducted by J. G Donald (2002). Further findings regarding extrinsic motivation suggest that if extrinsic motivation is increased, intrinsic motivation may be adversely affected (ERIC (2002:5)) which may have an effect on the learning approach preferentially adopted by a learner.

Extrinsic motivation is more heavily debated perhaps than intrinsic motivation with regards to effective learning. Intrinsic motivation is considered as being predominantly positive, while extrinsic motivation is more problematic and often perceived negatively. Intrinsic motivation is preferred relative to effective learning (ERIC (2002:5)); hence potentially accounting for initial preconceptions that extrinsic motivation is entirely negative. These preconceptions are sometimes considered to be misconceptions; as discussed by Vansteenkiste and Deci E (2006), who reviewed numerous studies that produced conflicting and inconsistent results. Studies suggesting that extrinsic motivation is generally undesirable regarding effective learning, or alternatively suggesting extrinsic motivation supports effective learning have both been contested, debated and critiqued from multiple perspectives (Vansteenkiste, M. and Deci, E. (2006)). One thing that can be concluded from the research is that extrinsic motivation does not 'always' (or often) promote effective or deep approaches to learning; additional factors such as a learner goal orientation, confidence and perception also influence the learning process. This relates to the contention made at the beginning of the essay, that the word 'always' suggests certainty.

A student once said (quoted by William Perry of Harvard):

'I can't afford to get interested in this course because I have to get a good grade'.

The student suggests that motivation is either solely intrinsic or extrinsic (Lin, Y. et al. (2001)), which is a common misconception. The so called 'grey area' previously referred to regarding differentiation of motivation types has been discussed by Sebart and Krek in a paper disseminated by the 'educational resources information center' (ERIC). The paper focuses specifically on grades, and presents a range of scenarios regarding the effect of grades being used to increase extrinsic motivation; which implies a decrease in intrinsic motivation (ERIC, 2002:5). The paper (and supporting research) suggests that there are processes through which extrinsic motivation can be internalized; therefore the differentiations made regarding motivation become indistinct. Although a point of interest, this digresses with regards to the objective of the essay.

Many of the theories, studies and terms discussed have been developed within or are closely associated to SDT, critics of which include two established psychologists; Locke and Latham. They state within their review that there are no consistent effects of goals on intrinsic motivation (Locke, E. and Latham, G. (2009)). A fair proportion of this essay has involved studies and terminology developed by Dweck, who is criticised for the lack of diversity within her studies with regards to ethnicity, culture and educational/ social backgrounds. Dwecks studies are often conducted in what are considered to be top universities in America, in which exists a slight degree of uniformity. Similar studies conducted in other universities have provided results contradicting those obtained by Dweck (The chronicle of higher education (2013)). Motivation from the perspective of alternative theories (such as those stated in the first paragraph of this essay) may present a different perspective; perhaps one which is more better represents the academic population. It is also worth noting that much of this essay has been centered on academic learning, which is by no means the sole type of learning environment that exists.

In the exploration of motivation it is essential that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are considered, as they present numerous complications in relation to the question 'Is motivation always good thing?' Based on the theories and studies discussed in this essay, it would be reasonable to cogitate that 'effective' learning takes place when a deeper approach to learning is adopted; this has been implied (sometimes indicatively) within a number of research studies (Kyndt, E. et al. (2011). From this, intrinsic motivation specifically can be thought to facilitate 'effective' learning as it promotes a deeper approach to learning, although little research has yet explicitly investigated this relationship directly (Kyndt, E. et al. (2011). Extrinsic motivation has been shown in research studies to have an effect on the learning process, and evidence suggests that extrinsic motivation can both facilitate and undermine effective learning. With regards to 'effective' learning therefore, it can be said that motivation is not always a good thing as motivational patterns can be both adaptive and maladaptive, the latter of which can result in 'ineffective' learning, i.e. learning that is limited and potentially easily 'lost' (Dweck (1986)). Theories surrounding motivation and the effects on learning are by no means flawless and factors such as goal orientation, learning approaches and learning environments are acknowledged to have an effect on motivation, and therefore any suppositions made are done so with caution. The exploration overall has advocated that an understanding of motivation by educators would be advantageous to reduce common preconceptions, as the long term effects motivational patterns can have on future learning endeavours is striking (Dweck (1986), Marcoulides, G. et al. (2008)). This highlights the importance of appropriately developed learning programmes, lesson plans and approaches to teaching in order to promote deeper learning where possible.

Mind map of interpreted relationships between goal orientation, motivation and learning approaches with regards to the literature read.