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Vocation, motivation and approaches to learning: a comparative study

Jose Luis Arquero (Accounting and Finance, University of Seville, Seville, Spain)
Carmen Fernández-Polvillo (Accounting and Finance, E.U de Osuna (University of Seville), Seville, Spain)
Trevor Hassall (Department of Finance, Accounting and Business Systems, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
John Joyce (Department of Finance, Accounting and Business Systems, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The individual characteristics of students can have a strong influence on the success of the adopted innovations in terms of their transferability and sustainability. The purpose of this paper is to compare the motivations and approaches to learning on degrees with differing vocational components.


Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and approaches to learning framework were used as theoretical background. Questionnaires were used to generate data. The sample was composed by 270 students enroled on differing degrees in term of motivation (accounting and nursing).


The results reveal differences in the approaches to learning and motivation between nursing and accounting students. Nursing degree seem to attract more internally motivated students, presenting significantly higher scores in terms of deep approach and lower scores on surface approach. Significant relationships where found between motivation and approaches.

Research limitations/implications

Data are obtained from students studying at a specific university in two degrees.

Practical implications

The result suggest that different degrees could attract students with different motivations and approaches to learning. Educators must be aware of which type of students are being attracted to their classrooms, because the inconsistencies between the students’ motives and approaches, the way the contents are presented, the pedagogy and the assessment system could result in poorer learning and failure to transfer or sustain innovations.


This paper adds to the very scarce literature linking motivation and approaches. The implications for curriculum design and delivery and specifically for assessment design are of interest for educators.



This work was partially supported by the Junta de Andalucía – FEDER (Proyectos de Excelencia: SEJ-02670).


Arquero, J.L., Fernández-Polvillo, C., Hassall, T. and Joyce, J. (2015), "Vocation, motivation and approaches to learning: a comparative study", Education + Training, Vol. 57 No. 1, pp. 13-30.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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