Motivation as an Enabler for Academic Success
Linnenbrink, Elizabeth A., Pintrich, Paul R., School Psychology Review
Abstract. Student motivation as an academic enabler for school success is discussed. Contrary to many views, however, the authors conceive of student motivation as a multifaceted construct with different components. Accordingly, the article includes a discussion of four key components of student motivation including academic self-efficacy, attributions, intrinsic motivation, and achievement goals. Research on each of these four components is described, research relating these four components to academic achievement and other academic enablers is reviewed, and suggestions are offered for instruction and assessment.
Psychologists and educators have long considered the role of motivation in student achievement and learning (for a review see Graham & Weiner, 1996). Much of the early research on student achievement and learning separated cognitive and motivational factors and pursued very distinct lines of research that did not integrate cognition and motivation. However, since at least the 1980s there has been a sustained research focus on how motivational and cognitive factors interact and jointly influence student learning and achievement. In more colloquial terms, there is a recognition that students need both the cognitive skill and the motivational will to do well in school (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). This miniseries continues in this tradition by highlighting the contribution of both motivational and cognitive factors for student academic success.
The integration of motivational and cognitive factors was facilitated by the shift in motivational theories from traditional achievement motivation models to social cognitive models of motivation (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). One of the most important assumptions of social cognitive models of motivation is that motivation is a dynamic, multifaceted phenomenon that contrasts with the quantitative view taken by traditional models of motivation. In other words, these newer social cognitive models do not assume that students are either "motivated" or "not motivated" or that student motivation can be characterized in some quantitative manner between two endpoints on a single continuum. Rather, social cognitive models stress that students can be motivated in multiple ways and the important issue is understanding how and why students are motivated for school achievement. This change in focus implies that teachers or school psychologists should not label students as "motivated" or "not motivated" in some global fashion. Furthermore, assessment instruments that generate a single global "motivation" score for students may be misleading in terms of a more multifaceted understanding of student motivation. Accordingly, in the discussion of motivation as an academic enabler, many aspects of student motivation including self-efficacy, attributions, intrinsic motivation, and goals are considered.
A second important assumption of social cognitive models of motivation is that motivation is not a stable trait of an individual, but is more situated, contextual, and domain-specific. In other words, not only are students motivated in multiple ways, but their motivation can vary depending on the situation or context in the classroom or school. Although this assumption makes it more difficult for research and assessment efforts, it means that student motivation is conceived as being inherently changeable and sensitive to the context. This provides hope for teachers and school psychologists and suggests that instructional efforts and the design of classrooms and schools can make a difference in motivating students for academic achievement.
This situated assumption means that student motivation probably varies as a function of subject matter domains and classrooms (e.g., Bong, 2001). For example, within social cognitive models, motivation is usually assessed for a specific subject area such as math, reading, science, or social studies and in reference to a specific classroom or teacher. In some ways, this also fits with teachers' and parents' own perceptions and experiences as they find that some children are quite motivated for mathematics, whereas others hate it, and also observe these motivational differences with other subject areas as well. However, this implies that assessment instruments that assess general student motivation for school or academics may not be as useful as more domain or context specific assessment tools.
A third assumption concerns the central role of cognition in social cognitive models of motivation. That is, it is not just the individual's cultural, demographic, or personality characteristics that influence motivation and achievement directly, or just the contextual characteristics of the classroom environment that shape motivation and achievement, but rather the individual's active regulation of his or her motivation, thinking, and behavior that mediates the relationships between the person, context, and eventual achievement. That is, students' own thoughts about their motivation and learning play a key role in mediating their engagement and subsequent achievement.
Following from these three general assumptions, social cognitive motivational theorists have proposed a large number of different motivational constructs that may facilitate or constrain student achievement and learning. Although there are good theoretical reasons for some of these distinctions among different motivational theories and constructs, in many cases they can be confusing and less than helpful in developing applications to improve student motivation and subsequent learning in school (Pintrich, 2000a). Rather than discussing all the different motivational constructs that may be enablers of student achievement and learning, this article will focus on four key families of motivational beliefs (self-efficacy, attributions, intrinsic motivation, and goal orientations). These four families represent the currently accepted major social cognitive motivational theories (Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998; Graham & Weiner, 1996; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002) and, therefore, seem most relevant when thinking about how motivation relates to achievement and other academic enablers. For each of the four general components, the components are defined, a summarization is given for how the motivational component is related to student achievement and learning as well as the other academic enablers discussed in this special issue, and some implications for instruction and assessment are suggested. Although these four families are interrelated, it is beyond the scope of this article to present an interrelated model of self-efficacy, attributions, intrinsic motivation, and goal orientations. Readers interested in a more comprehensive overview may refer to Pintrich and Schunk's (2002) detailed discussion of motivational processes in schooling.
Adaptive Self-Efficacy Beliefs as Enablers of Success
A common layperson's definition of motivation is that it involves a strong personal interest in a particular subject or activity. Students who are interested are motivated and they learn and achieve because of this strong interest. Although interest as a component of student motivation will be discussed later, one of the more important motivational beliefs for student achievement is self-efficacy, which concerns beliefs about capabilities to do a task or activity. More specifically, self-efficacy has been defined as individuals' beliefs about their performance capabilities in a particular context or a specific task or domain (Bandura, 1997). Self-efficacy is assumed to be situated and contextualized, not a general belief about self-concept or self-esteem. For example, a student might have high self-efficacy for doing algebra problems, but a lower self-efficacy for geometry problems or other subject areas, depending on past successes and failures. These self-efficacy beliefs are distinct from general self-conc ept beliefs or self-esteem.
Although the role of self-efficacy has been studied in a variety of domains including mental health and health behavior such as coping with depression or smoking cessation, business management, and athletic performance, a number of educational psychologists have examined how self-efficacy relates to behavior in elementary and secondary academic settings (e.g., Bandura, 1997; Eccles et al., 1998; Pintrich, 2000b; Pintrich & De Groot, 1990; Schunk, 1989a, 1989b, 1991). In particular, self-efficacy has been positively related to higher levels of achievement and learning as well as a wide variety of adaptive academic outcomes such as higher levels of effort and increased persistence on difficult tasks in both experimental and correlational studies involving students from a variety of age groups (Bandura, 1997; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). Students who have more positive self-efficacy beliefs (i.e., they believe they can do the task) are more likely to work harder, persist, and eventually achieve at higher levels. In addition, there is evidence that students who have positive self-efficacy beliefs are more likely to choose to continue to take more difficult courses (e.g., advanced math courses) over the course of schooling (Eccles et al., 1998). In our own correlational research with junior high students in Michigan, we have consistently found that self-efficacy beliefs are positively related to student cognitive engagement and their use of self-regulatory strategies (similar in some ways to study skills) as well as general achievement as indexed by grades (e.g., Pintrich, 2000b; Pintrich & De Groot, 1990; Wolters, Yu, …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Motivation as an Enabler for Academic Success. Contributors: Linnenbrink, Elizabeth A. - Author, Pintrich, Paul R. - Author. Journal title: School Psychology Review. Volume: 31. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 2002. Page number: 313+. © 2002 School Psychology Review. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.