Academic Motivation and Engagement: Theoretical Background

Academic Motivation and Engagement: Theoretical Background

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5155-3.ch002
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This chapter introduces the central theories of academic motivation underlying most previous research into motivation and engagement. Their core constructs will be identified, as well as the behavioral outcomes that they aim to explain. The limitations of the theories are then summarised and Martin's (2003, 2007) Student Motivation and Engagement Wheel (the Wheel) is presented as a comprehensive model of academic motivation and engagement. Finally, age and gender trends in motivation and engagement are reviewed with a special attention given to longitudinal research in Australia.
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Need Achievement And Self-Worth Theories Of Motivation

Murray (1938) proposed a need for achievement as one of the basic human needs. According to Murray, a need is “a more or less consistent trait of personality” (p. 61) which drives a person towards a specific behavior in a specific situation. McClelland and colleagues (1953) extended Murray’s concept of need for achievement by linking it to self-worth. Self-worth is an affective response to one’s own identity based on his or her perceptions of actual or expected performance (Schunk, Pintrich & Meece, 2007). McClelland and colleagues proposed that need for achievement arises when students hope to achieve success and desire to avoid failure. While performing well might have positive influences on students’ self-worth, performing poorly might have negative consequences for self-worth because individuals might associate failure with low ability which in turn reflects negatively on their own personal values (Covington, 1992). According to this theory, students will strive to achieve success and avoid failure in order to realise their self-worth (Atkinson, 1957).

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