Attitudes and Motivations of Students Taking Professional Certificate Examinations

By Cheng, Pi-Yueh; Lin, Mei-Lan et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Attitudes and Motivations of Students Taking Professional Certificate Examinations


Cheng, Pi-Yueh, Lin, Mei-Lan, Su, Chia-Kai, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


Obtaining professional certificates has become a trend in business schools and the business community in Taiwan. There are several organizations that award relevant professional certificates, for example, courses of study are available through the Securities and Futures Information Centre, the Life Insurance Association of the Republic of China, the Taiwan Insurance Institute, the Risk Management Society of Taiwan, the Life Insurance Management Institute of the Republic of China, the Non-Life Underwriters' Society of the Republic of China, and the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance. When people apply for jobs after graduating from a university, they are usually required to have some relevant certificates. Moreover, as students who have professional certificates constitute the group with the most important indicators for university evaluations by the Ministry of Education, students are being encouraged to obtain professional certificates while they are still in school. From an educational viewpoint, improving student learning attitudes and professional knowledge through examination preparation and understanding the motivations and attitudes of students taking certificate examinations are, therefore, important.

We investigated the internal motivations of students taking these examinations, employing different research methods including a qualitative method, a questionnaire survey, and an experimental method. Our results could be used to provide concrete directions for students when counseling them about certificate examinations. On the whole, our purpose in this research was twofold: (1) to examine both internal and external motivation from a cognitive-oriented motive viewpoint, and identify student motivations for participating in certificate exams; (2) to examine whether cognitive dissonance theory, from the motive viewpoint, is applicable to attitude changes in participating in certificate examinations, while examining the relationship between the impact of external justifications on attitude changes (including rewards, free will, responsibility, commitment, and effort or cost) and student attitudes.

LITERATURE REVIEW

MOTIVATION THEORY

Motivation is a force that directs specific behavioral alternatives, which are suggested when individuals choose to behave in a certain way (Chiang & Jang, 2008). In addition, Amabile (1997) indicated that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation determine what a person is capable of doing within a given domain. Intrinsic motivation is driven by deep interests and involvement in the work, curiosity, enjoyment, or a personal sense of challenge while extrinsic motivation is driven by the desire to attain some goal that is separate from the work itself, such as achieving a promised reward, meeting a deadline, or winning a competition.

According to those holding the cognitive-oriented-motive (COM) viewpoint, people may be subject to many external motivators when they take part in certificate examinations, including compliments from others, threats, money, rewards (Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973), scores, and fame (Deci, 1971; Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991), as well as internal motivators such as a sense of belonging and autonomy (Deci et al., 1991; deCharms, 1968), a sense of capability (Bandura, 1977; Deci et al., 1991), and having a goal and a plan (Tolman, 1959). There are four key factors that serve as indicators for the external motivators that threaten internal motivation (Deci, 1972; Deci et al., 1991); namely, expectancy, relevance, tangibility, and noncontingency. When the rewards of students participating in certificate examinations are uncertain, the external motivators will not lessen the internal motivations that maintain these reinforcement effects. Therefore, students take certificate examinations because the external motivators of internal motivations are more unexpected, less relevant, intangible, and highly contingent, and the internal motivations for participation are stronger and more attractive. …

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