Academic Motivation and Engagement

Academic Motivation and Engagement

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5155-3.ch001
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In this chapter, the author introduces the concepts of academic motivation and engagement. Past research has shown that there is a difference between motivation and engagement and how they play significant roles in an academic learning process. This chapter brings to light that a lot of research has taken place in the high school years identifying the significance of motivation and engagement of students. When students move into their college years, the roles of motivation and engagement become further crucial in the learning process because the success at the end of these years unlocks a plethora of opportunities to enhance their career prospects. An understanding of the dynamics of student academic motivation would have practical implications for teachers and school administrators in guiding students towards learning.
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Motivation And Engagement

Myers (1998) defines motivation as “a need or desire that serves to energize behavior and to direct it toward a goal” (p. 363) whereas engagement is “a visible manifestation of motivation” in behavior (Skinner & Pitzer, 2012, p. 23). The characteristics of engagement include effort, vigour, intensity, enthusiasm and the amount of energy invested in behavior. A key distinction between motivation and engagement in practical pedagogical terms is that motivation refers to energy and direction and the reasons for engaging in specific behaviors whereas engagement refers to energy in action, the connection between thought and actual behavior (Department of Education, Science & Training, 2005). Both motivational attitudes and behavioral engagement are necessary for learning, behavioral engagement being required for the translation of motivational attitudes and values into a learning process.

Research has shown that motivation is associated both with outcomes of learning and with student characteristics which facilitate or impede learning. High levels of motivation to do well at schoolwork have been shown to be positively associated with academic success (Martin, 2007; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002), mental wellbeing and the feeling of being in control of learning (Ryan & Deci, 2000a; Smith, 2004) and negatively associated with depression and anxiety (Kasser & Ryan, 1996). Low levels of motivation to do well at schoolwork have been shown to be positively associated with less positive academic outcomes (Seligman, 1975). Engagement in learning shapes students’ everyday experiences in school and is a critical contributor to their academic development (Skinner & Pitzer, 2012). Students with low levels of engagement are more likely to drop out even when family, socio-economic status and education are taken into account (Rumberger, 2004). Interestingly, students can be motivated and at the same time, disengaged. For example, in a large study in Victoria, Australia, primary and secondary students reported high positive scores on a scale concerning their own motivation to learn, but indicated only a low level of engagement in their classroom work (Russell, Mackay & Jane, 2003).

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