An understanding of learner motivation is important to all educators, particularly those teaching online where learners need to be more motivated to achieve (Miltiadou & Savenye, 2003; Pintrich, 2003; Palloff & Pratt, 2003; Beffa-Negrini et al., 2002; Roblyer, 1999). As educators strive to create better online courses that motivate learners to be successful, substantive theories on online adult learner motivation are essential to have as benchmarks against which to pattern best practices.
Pintrich’s (2003) and Miltiadou and Savenye’s (2003) seminal research in learner motivation provides a theoretical basis and, although these researchers present different learner motivation classification schemes, common themes emerge such as the perception of ability (self-efficacy), reason for engagement (value and goal setting), and self-regulation.
Educators strive to more fully understand learner motivation since motivated students learn better. “[T]he quality of the education provided is intertwined with the student’s ability and the student’s motivation, to produce learning” (Kawachi, 2003, p. 61).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learner Motivation: is a complex, abstract concept associated with why students desire to participate in the learning process and what drives them to persist while others do not (Franken, 1982). Learner motivation is often defined as being intrinsic, where learners are interested in the course content, or extrinsic, where learners are interested in earning a course grade or credit.
Motivating Factors: are the personal constructs that affect an individual’s resolve. They address an individual’s perception of their ability to accomplish a task and how they are affected by circumstances beyond their control.
Benchmarks: are standards created through the examination of similar processes against which best practices can be compared. When comparing a course or program to benchmarks, educators are given a goal to maintain or reach (Billings & Connors, n.d.).
“Best Practices in education are strategies used to produce good teaching and learning outcomes: including customer satisfaction” (Billings & Connors, n.d. Best practices defined section, ¶2)
Extrinsic Motivation: occurs when learners are involved in the educational process as a means to an end such as earning a grade or degree. Traditionally, education is dominated by extrinsic motivational factors.
Learning Context: is where the learning takes place. Learner motivation is situated in an environment where learners are motivated by an engaging task or activity that is situated in, influenced by, and changed through the nature of interactions, tasks, activities, practices, and cultures of the learning environment.
Intrinsic Motivation: occurs when learners are interested in the course content and advancing their own knowledge, they generally show a higher level of conceptual understanding, they demonstrate more creative thinking, and they derive pleasure from learning.
Online Learner Motivation: is defined within the online context or environment where learning takes place.
Goal Setting: refers to learners establishing achievement targets and taking responsibility for their learning. These goals can be mastery, where learners are goal oriented as they look to gain knowledge while they improve their skills, or performance oriented, where learners care more about how their performance is evaluated than how much they learn. It is possible for learners to be motivated by both goal mastery and performance goals.