Hello, and welcome to my first blog for my Science of education module.
If you’re anything like me, you may find it hard to get motivated to start doing university work. I know that around exam and assignment deadlines, everything else seems to get done – my room is spotless, my car is sparkling and all my washing gets done.
I am going to look into the reasons behind our feelings and motivations surrounding our education.
There is a form of attribution theory that was developed by Bernard Weiner. Weiner suggested that a person’s beliefs surrounding the causes of their academic success have an effect on their emotions and motivation.
Let me give you an example:
Say I fail my exams (touch wood!), and I think that this has happened because I just don’t have the ability to pass an exam. I don’t think that my ability to pass an exam is anything that I can control and I feel ashamed and embarrassed. Because of this, I stop trying and my academic performance is poor as a result. In this case, my feelings of shame and embarrassment decreased my motivation, due to my belief about the causes of my academic success (that I don’t have the ability to pass an exam (uncontrollable)).
Of course, this can go the other way too. If I believed that I did badly in my exam because I hadn’t worked hard enough, and this is something that IS controllable I might feel guilty, and put more effort into studying in the future – which would improve my performance.
In this case, my feelings of guilt increased my motivation due to my belief about the causes of my academic success (not working hard enough (controllable)).
As you can see, what a student perceives as being the cause of their academic success is hugely important to their future motivation.
I’m hoping that makes a little more sense, and let’s all cross our fingers for my results to not come back as F2s…
So, if a person’s beliefs about the causes of their academic success are so important to future motivation – is it possible to change a person’s attributions to help them be more motivated and, therefore, do better academically in the future?
Driscoll urges teachers to encourage learners to recognise that their outcomes are dependant on their efforts (something controllable).
However, Tollefson suggested that a student’s motivation cannot be effected by simply rewarding their efforts. Actually, rewarding effort could lead to a student thinking they lack ability. For example, if a student puts in 100% to an assignment and still doesn’t do well, they may think that the failure must be down to their lack of ability.
For this reason, Hereli and Weiner suggest that students who regularly fail at a task should be redirected towards something more suitable. By directing a student to a more achievable task, the student is more likely to attribute their failures to the difficulty of the task, rather than their lack of ability. This should keep them motivated.
There is a lot more to this subject, and if it has peaked your interest I do advise you to read more about it as it’s not only fascinating but may help you in the future to stay motivated, by recognising that it’s not your lack of ability that’s holding you back but rather that you don’t put enough effort in due to watching TV instead of revising (maybe just me..?)
Thank you for reading, and if you have any further research, opinions or information about the topic please feel free to comment!
Driscoll, M. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Boston: Pearson Education.
Hareli, S., & Weiner, B. (2002). Social Emotions and Personality Inferences: A
Scaffold for a New Direction in the Study of Achievement Motivation. Educational
Psychologist, 37(3), 183-193.
Tollefson, N. (2000). Classroom Applications of Cognitive Theories of Motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 12(1), 63-83.
Weiner, B. (2008). Reflections on the history of attribution theory and research:
People, personalities, publications, problems. Social Psychology, 39(3), 151-156.