"I'm Not Doing as Well in This Class as I'd like To": Exploring Achievement Motivation and Personality
Cole, James S., Denzine, Gypsy M., Journal of College Reading and Learning
This study looked at the relationship of explanatory style and self-systems (including self-esteem and self-efficacy) and the motivation (expectations for success and task value) of students who were dissatisfied with their performance in a particular class One result is the confirmation that situated variables such as self-efficacy provide the strongest explanation of a student's motivation. Another result is that self-esteem seems to play a minimal role in explaining a student's motivation. Results suggest that learning assistance center (LAC) staff should directly ask students about their academic self-efficacy, expectations for success, and perceptions of task value related to specific courses. In addition, LAC staff should try to identify a student's explanation for not doing well in class.
I am just not doing as well in this class as I would like to" is a lament made by many college students at some point during their higher education experience. Students who find themselves in this situation often seek out learning assistance center (LAC) staff for guidance. In particular, students may turn to LAC staff for assistance with their study skills, time management strategies, and other aspects of academic self-regulation. Students who are dissatisfied with their performance in a class may also find it difficult to stay motivated to succeed in it. Consequently, LAC staff may find themselves in the position of trying to understand the motivation of these students and to appropriately respond to them. Even though this situation may be a common experience among college students, there has been little research exploring their academic motivations (Ormrod, 1999; Paris & Turner, 1994). Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to explore the achievement motivations of college students who are dissatisfied with their performance in a particular class.
The Situated Nature of Motivation
The importance of understanding the situational aspects of motivation has been noted and investigated by several researchers in recent years (Paris & Turner, 1994; Turner et al., 1998). Paris and Turner argue that "analyses of motivation should consider the characteristics of individuals in specific situations because a person's motivational beliefs and behavior are derived from contextual transactions" (pp. 213-214). These researchers identified four characteristics of situational motivation in different settings. One characteristic is that motivation arises out of a cognitive assessment of the situation or event. This assessment includes, among other things, the students' expectations, values, goals, rewards, and satisfactions. A second characteristic involves a cognitive assessment that enables the student to construct the event based on cognitive interpretations. According to Paris and Turner (1994), this constructivist viewpoint of motivation is based on the same constructivist models that are now prevalent in developmental, educational, and social psychology. A third characteristic shows motivation as contextualized because of the unique cognitive interpretations that individuals have for each event. The fourth characteristic of situated motivations is that motivations are necessarily unstable. That is, goals, expectations, values, and other elements that comprise the cognitive assessment are always in flux and subject to change. These four characteristics of situated motivation suggest that a typological view of motivation may not be sufficient. A typological perspective of motivation is characterized by generalized comments regarding student motivation, such as "this student has a high motivation to learn." While typological views of motivation may at times provide useful information, it is also important to consider contextual and situational factors. Understanding the global characteristics of students' motivational style towards learning may not always provide LAC staff with the situation specific strategies that will best assist the student to be academically successful. "I am just not doing as well in this class as I would like to" provides us with a situation that is necessarily contextualized and interpreted uniquely by each student. What is not known, however, is to what extent the motivations of students in this particular academic situation are related to their personality constructs and "self-systems" such as self-esteem and self-efficacy. In particular, in this study we explored the influences of the personality construct explanatory style, and student self-systems on student motivations (expectations for success and task value). First, we review the theoretical relationships.
Expectation for Success and Task Value
Motivation has been studied extensively over the years using the expectancy-value theory (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Weiner, 1990). Atkinson and Feather first proposed this theory in 1966. The theory holds that a student's motivation to participate in an activity depends on the expectation for success and the value placed on the task (as cited in Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). The expectancy component refers to the student's belief of being in control of learning and outcomes. Thus, this "control of learning" leads the student to have expectations regarding positive or negative outcomes (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991). Task value refers to the student's opinion of the importance, interest, or usefulness of the task. According to Pintrich et al. (1991), high task value will result in students being more involved in their own learning. As students gain control of their learning beliefs, their expectations for task success increase. As the value they place on the task increases, so does their motivation to pursue it (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). Likewise, as students' expectations for success and/or value decreases, so does their motivation to participate.
One characteristic that is often reported as related to this cognitive appraisal of expectation and value is self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). According to Bandura, self-efficacy "refers to beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given …
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Publication information: Article title: "I'm Not Doing as Well in This Class as I'd like To": Exploring Achievement Motivation and Personality. Contributors: Cole, James S. - Author, Denzine, Gypsy M. - Author. Journal title: Journal of College Reading and Learning. Volume: 34. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2004. Page number: 29+. © 1999 College Reading and Learning Association. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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