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Identity and Motivation in a Changing World: A Complex Dynamic Systems Perspective

Motivation in Education at a Time of Global Change

ISBN: 978-1-78754-614-1, eISBN: 978-1-78754-613-4

ISSN: 0749-7423

Publication date: 25 March 2019


Current motivation theory and research face serious theoretical, methodological, and practical challenges. One central challenge is the fact that research has focused mainly on motivation for traditional achievement tasks such as graded assignments and normative educational trajectories. Arguably, current motivation theory and research may be inadequate to characterize adaptive motivation in the uncertain, changing, and unpredictable environments of the twenty-first century. How might motivation researchers conceptualize students’ motivation in such dynamic and complex contexts? How can motivational research inform educators, administrators, and policymakers in designing curricula, pedagogy, and evaluation and accountability systems to prepare students for such a world? In the current chapter, we address these challenges with a perspective on motivation as a complex dynamic system (CDS) that is based in the person’s identity. We begin with a brief review of the challenges to the current prevalent approach to motivation research, highlighting the need for a new paradigm. We then review assumptions of the CDSs approach that render it useful for understanding motivation in continuously changing and unpredictable environments. We then present a CDS conceptual model of identity and motivation that incorporates constructs and processes from a variety of identity and motivational theories – the Dynamic Systems Model of Role Identity (DSMRI). We follow with a conceptualization of the characteristics of the identity-motivation system most adaptive for growth in changing and unpredictable environments. We end by considering the implications of this perspective for motivational theory and research and for educational practice and policy.



Kaplan, A., Garner, J.K. and Brock, B. (2019), "Identity and Motivation in a Changing World: A Complex Dynamic Systems Perspective", Motivation in Education at a Time of Global Change (Advances in Motivation and Achievement, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 101-127.



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