Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Life in Transition: A Motivational Perspective

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Life in Transition: A Motivational Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract

Across the life span, individuals are faced with critical developmental transitions during which one's motivation can significantly impact achievement striving as well as psychological and physical health. This article provides an overview of the research program of 2011 CPA President's New Researcher Award recipient Dr. Nathan C. Hall, having as its focus the promotion of optimal development during challenging transition phases in the education, employment, and aging domains in exploring the causes, correlates, and consequences of individuals' motivational strategies and interventions for achievement, retention, emotions, health, and well-being.

Keywords: motivation, emotions, transitions, interventions, achievement, retention, health

Over 150,000 Canadian undergraduates enrolled in 2009 are expected to drop out of university over the next six years (Statistics Canada, 2008), most during their first year (e.g., 61%; ACT, 2011), with even higher attrition rates found in Germany (3040%) and the U.S. (54%; OECD, 2010). Upon graduation, university students are faced with an increasingly competitive job market due to increasing postsecondary enrollment combined with limited growth in professional jobs (deWolf & Klemmer, 2010) that have contributed to increasing unemployment for graduates (Babad, 2011). As Canadians get older, those with serious health problems are also likely to encounter limited, delayed, or expensive health care resources due to the increasingly untenable fiscal demand of an aging population on the federal budget (Mickleburgh, 2011). Across the life span, individuals are faced with critical transitions during which one's motivation can significantly impact achieving developmental goals as well as psychological and physical wellbeing. As outlined below, my primary research focus entails promoting optimal development during these transition phases in the education, employment, and aging domains by exploring the causes, correlates, and consequences of individuals' motivational strategies on achievement, persistence, emotions, health, and wellbeing with a focus on developing innovative and effective motivational intervention programs.

Theoretical Background

My research to date is informed mainly by three theoretical models derived from the social, educational, and developmental psychological domains. The first is Weiner's (2000) attribution theory that provides a comprehensive, social-psychological account of how the dimensions underlying individuals' causal attributions (e.g., personal controllability) following failure events effectively predict subsequent cognitions (e.g., expectations, responsibility), emotions (e.g., hope, pride, guilt, shame), and achievement striving (e.g., persistence). The second is Pekrun's (2006) control-value theory of achievement emotions that outlines a user-friendly framework for evaluating emotions in educational settings with respect to their timing (before, during, and after learning), underlying dimensions (e.g., motivationally activating vs. deactivating), motivational antecedents (e.g., perceptions of control and value), and achievement consequences. The third is Heckhausen' s motivational theory of life span development (Heckhausen, Wrosch, & Schulz, 2010) that clearly delimits specific classes of motivational strategies that facilitate goal engagement (e.g., persistence, enhanced goal importance, help-seeking) or compensate for threats to emotional and motivational wellbeing including partial disengagement (e.g., downgrading expectations), complete disengagement (e.g., distraction, withdrawal), or self-protection (e.g., positive reappraisal, downward social comparison). Taken together, these perspectives comprise a balanced approach to evaluating and promoting optimal development by addressing the motivational strategies and emotions that allow individuals to maximize goal striving and success, and respond adaptively to failure experiences. …

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