The Decade Ahead: Applications and Contexts of Motivation and Achievement: Volume 16 Part B


Table of contents

(13 chapters)

The continuous outpouring of studies from motivation researchers begs for a periodic taking of stock, as well as prognostications about future directions in the field. The dawning of a new decade presents a worthwhile opportunity for such a reflective examination. This volume, the 16th in the Advances in Motivation and Achievement series, published in 2010, offers this reflection on where we stand and where we are going as a scientific discipline in the decade ahead.

Until recently, motivation has been considered to be an individual phenomenon. Motivational theorists have accordingly conceptualised key constructs in individualistic terms and emphasised the individual origins and nature of motivation, although they have also long recognised that contextual or social factors have a significant influence on these individual processes. Recently this conceptualisation has been questioned as theorists have suggested, after Vygotsky, that motivation, like learning and thinking, might be social in nature. This idea was first suggested by Sivan (1986) more than twenty years ago but it received a major impetus with the publication of an article by Hickey (1997) eleven years later. Since that time interest in the social nature of motivation has grown as a small number of book chapters and journal articles have been published and conference papers have been presented on the topic. Although some motivational theorists remain sceptical (e.g. Winne, 2004) of this theoretical development, the inclusion of a section on sociocultural approaches to motivation in Perry, Turner, and Meyer's (2006) chapter on classrooms as contexts for motivating learning in the 2nd edition of the Handbook of Educational Psychology suggests that this perspective is being seriously considered by motivational researchers. Similarly, the inclusion of a chapter (Walker, in press-b) on the sociocultural approach to motivation in the 3rd edition of the International Encyclopedia of Education indicates that this approach has achieved some recognition.

In this section, we will highlight three overlapping concepts that are currently used in both the motivation and emotion literatures: goals, agency and expectancy. We recognize that there are other potential overlapping constructs (e.g. interest); however, we focus on these three.

In recent years, it has become evident that self-regulation plays a central role in human functioning, including learning and achievement in school. Although there are different definitions of self-regulation, there is general consensus that it refers to a multi-component, iterative, self-steering process that targets one's own cognitions, feelings, and actions, as well as features of the environment for modulation in the service of one's own goals (Boekaerts, Maes, & Karoly, 2005). Educational psychologists agree that learning in the classroom involves cognitive and affective processing and is heavily influenced by social processes. This implies that students should be able and willing to regulate their cognitions, motivation, and emotions, as well as to adapt to the social context in order to facilitate their learning. Yet, there is at present neither a uniformly accepted definition of self-regulation nor that of self-regulated learning. Most theorists agree that self-regulation in the classroom is neither an all-or-none process nor a property of the learning system. Rather, it consists of multiple processes and components that interact in complex ways. Definitions have focused either on the structure of self-regulation, describing the different components of the self-regulation process, or on the processes that are involved.

Translating motivational research to classroom instruction may be so difficult because the two enterprises of psychological research and teaching are inherently different in goals and assumptions. Whereas psychological theory is meant to be broad and generalizable, educational practice must attend to individual and situational differences. For instance, a great deal of research suggests that mastery goal structures are related to desirable beliefs and behaviors. However, knowing that this is so does not help teachers know how to foster mastery goals in their classrooms and whether or how practices might vary given differences among students, developmental levels, and content areas. As Patrick (2004) noted, the theoretical notion of mastery goal structure as it is currently conceptualized was not developed in classrooms and does not address how a mastery goal structure is either manifested or communicated to students. Although it makes theoretical sense to provide “appropriate challenge” to students, how a teacher adapts that principle to students with a range of abilities and attitudes, from challenge seekers to avoiders, is not obvious. Research can provide only a general theoretical heuristic for understanding tendencies and does not necessarily explain individuals' behavior over time (Turner & Patrick, 2004). For motivational research to be meaningful and useful to educators, it needs to help them interpret student behavior as specific responses to specific sets of circumstances. Pajares (2007) expressed this well when he noted:Research findings … drawn from educational psychology broadly, and motivation theory and research in particular are bounded by a host of situated, cultural factors that must be attended to if the constructs themselves are to have any, as William James (1907/1975) termed it, practical, or cash, value. (p. 30)Therefore, in its present form, theory may not appear useful to teachers because of its seeming lack of specificity. These issues apply to all current theories of motivation.

Educational psychologists have, over the last half century or so, directed their attention to the study of student motivation. While teachers have not entirely been ignored, there has been little inquiry into teacher motivation that has been systematic and theory-driven. The concentration on students has tended to overlook the centrality of teacher motivations as integral to teachers’ goals, beliefs, perceptions, aspirations, and behaviours, and thereby to student motivations and learning. It is perhaps not surprising that those motivation researchers who have developed robust theories in relation to student learning in educational contexts would begin to turn their attention to teachers, to see whether those same theories might have explanatory power with regard to teacher motivations. Teacher self-efficacy research (e.g., Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2007; Woolfolk Hoy & Burke-Spero, 2005) has made important contributions to the study of teachers. Motivation researchers are now beginning to turn their attention to other aspects of the complex of motivational factors which demand greater attention and exploration. Robust theoretical frameworks already exist in the motivation literature, which can be applied to guide future research in this area. There has recently been a surge of interest, or what we have elsewhere described as a “Zeitgeist” (Watt & Richardson, 2008a) in applying well-developed theories in motivation research, to the domain of teaching.

Discrimination is defined as negative or harmful behavior toward a person because of his or her membership in a particular group (see Jones, 1997). Unfortunately, experiences with discrimination due to racial group membership appear to be a normal part of development for African American youth. Discrimination experiences occur within a variety of social contexts, including school, peer, and community contexts, and with increasing frequency as youth move across the adolescent years (Fisher, Wallace, & Fenton, 2000; Seaton et al., 2008). Recent research with a nationally representative sample of African American 13–17-year olds revealed that 87% had experienced at least one racially discriminatory event during the preceding year (Seaton et al., 2008). Most of the research on the consequences of youths’ encounters with racial discrimination has focused on mental health outcomes (Cooper, McLoyd, Wood, & Hardaway, 2008), with surprisingly little work examining whether and through what mechanisms discrimination affects achievement motivation.

Bruner (1985) once challenged learning theorists to define their model of the learner rather than design curriculum and instruction materials directed at a vague, and perhaps nonexistent, target. We suggest that motivation theorists do the same. The model of co-regulated learning that we describe (McCaslin, 2009) first posits learners who: (1) are social by nature (biological adaptations) and by nurture (socialization) (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Geary, 2002; Olson & McCaslin, 2008); (2) have basic needs for participation and validation that can inform student dispositions toward school (McCaslin & Burross, 2008); and (3) differ in how and in what they participate – their adaptation (McCaslin & Burross, in press, p. xx). Second, the co-regulation model of the learner asserts that motivation and identity are mutually informative; what I am and am not willing to do inform who I am and the person I might become. Both motivation and identity are based on opportunities denied, taken, or missed and on the interpersonal relationships that do or do not support and validate them. Opportunities and relationships are based, in part, on cultural norms and challenges that delineate individuals historically and presently in time and place (see McCaslin, 2009 for full explication of these and related constructs). Motivation is at the core of identity. Thus, motivations of today's learners inform not only their school achievements, but also the adults they may become. If motivation is the core of emergent identity now and in the future, what then is at the core of motivation?

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Advances in Motivation and Achievement
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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