Concepts of Ability and Motivation
Schools must ... foster a will to learn and to relearn ... students must be encouraged to believe in themselves and in the validity of their own thought processes ...they must develop a sense of personal effectiveness ... teachers must foster both confidence and high achievement in their students ... confidence and competence must increase together for either to prosper.
-- Covington and Beery ( 1976, pp. 4-5)
The central concern in this chapter is students' perceptions and evaluations of their ability and how it affects their motivation. In every aspect of life, whether people are thinking about trying out for a play or an athletic team, worrying about taking a test, applying for a job, comparing themselves to other people, or deciding what courses to take, they are evaluating their ability. How students evaluate their ability has important implications for their expectancies for success in future tasks.
Self-perception of ability is a major component of many current perspectives of motivation: perceived competence, expectancy-value, self-efficacy, self-worth, and goal orientation ( Pajares, 1996). These beliefs about ability are closely related to the expectancies students have for success on an upcoming task and values they hold for the task ( Bandura, 1986; Meece, Eccles, & Wigfield, 1990). When students believe they can succeed in a task or subject, they are more likely to undertake it and their value for it increases ( Bandura, 1986; Mac Iver, Stipek, & Daniels, 1991).