Individual Differences in Conation: Selected Constructs and Measures
Richard E. Snow Douglas N. Jackson III Stanford University
In recent years, a plethora of psychological constructs and their associated measures have been proposed for attention in instructional research and evaluation. These constructs are attempts to capture in one way or another, aspects of human learning and performance relevant to instruction that go beyond conventional constructs of cognitive ability. Some are old concepts in psychology that have not received much attention in contemporary work. Some are quite new, with relatively little foundation in prior research. Some represent the inventions of educational practitioners. Many are designed to identify potentially important individual differences among students that influence learning in instructional situations. Many also can be used to assess outcomes from such learning.
Among the most interesting and potentially useful of these constructs are those reflecting motivational and volitional aspects of human behavior; we call these conative constructs. There are of course also important cognitive constructs and affective constructs, both old and new. The distinction between cognition, conation, and affection is convenient and historically well-founded in psychology, though it should be regarded as a matter of emphasis rather than a true partition; all human behavior, especially including instructional learning and achievement, involves some mixture of all three aspects ( Hilgard, 1980). But the conative side of school learning has been largely ignored in instructional assessment until very recently ( Snow, 1980; Snow & Farr, 1987).
By way of formal definition, conation represents:
That aspect of mental process or behavior by which it tends to develop into something else; an intrinsic "unrest" of the organism . . . almost the opposite of homeostasis. A conscious tendency to act; a conscious striving. . . . Impulse, desire,