Academic Motivation: For the Love of Learning

Academic Motivation: For the Love of Learning

Heather M. W. Petrelli
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3132-6.ch021
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What leads to academic success? Why are some students able to achieve academically and others not? A breadth of research exists supporting the notion of motivation as having a significant impact on academic success. This chapter investigated historical and theoretical developments of motivation from the Greek Philosophers, through the Industrial Revolution, to the perspective of motivation in fulfilling psychological needs. Once the general concept of motivation is fully exhausted, academic motivation is explored from theoretical foundations to current research on factors influencing academic motivation and the impact of academic motivation on academic achievement. This foundation has practical implications for assessment of motivation and curricular and program development as a result.
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A breadth of research exists supporting the impact of motivation on learning and achievement (Dennis, Phinney, & Chuateco, 2005; Fortier, 1995; Kappe & Flier, 2012; Kusurkar, Ten Cate, Vos, Westers, & Croiset, 2013; Lavender, 2005; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; M, 2013; Martin, Galentino, & Townsend, 2014; Patterson Lorenzetti, 2013; Prowse & Delbridge, 2013; Rogers, 2010; Vecchione, Alessandri, & Marsicano, 2014). In fact, some researchers argue that motivation alone can determine the academic success of an individual (Liu, Bridgeman, & Adler, 2012). A learner may have the intellect to succeed, but without motivation, that potential is lost (Adebayo, 2008; Barrera, 2010; Ting, 2003). For without motivation, why does one do anything at all?

Early research reported significant relationships between academic success (sometimes operationalized as retention) and intrinsic motivation to learn, student engagement, effort, self-confidence, and competence (Deci, Eghrari, Patrick, & Leone, 1994; Deci & Moller, 2005; Epstein, 1989). Recent research has addressed the predictive value of motivation on academic success in thesis and dissertation research (Huang, 2011; Normyle, 2011; Sarnataro, 2011; Siemens, 2011). For example, Huang (2011) reported that academic self-efficacy, achievement motivation, and student engagement influenced cumulative GPA for undergraduate students. These findings are regularly observed across all educational levels from primary, secondary, post-secondary, and to graduate students (Martin, 2009); consistently confirming the impact of motivation on academic achievement across all age groups.

This chapter will explore the correlation between academic motivation and achievement starting first with an overview of the historical and theoretical foundations of the general concept of motivation and moving towards the specific concept of academic motivation. Historical and theoretical foundations of academic achievement will also be explored followed by an examination of the literature on the topic, a review of assessment strategies, and finally implications on curricular and program development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation derived from internal sources such as personal curiosity, desire for self-actualization, love for learning, or helping others.

Amotivation: The absence of motivation.

Metacognition: “An individual’s knowledge concerning his own cognitive processes” (Brown, 1977, p. 1 AU145: The in-text citation "Brown, 1977, p. 1" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Attribution Theory: Behaviors are the result of antecedents such as information, beliefs, and motivation, which affect attributions such as perceived causes, and ultimately result in behavior, affect, and expectancy.

Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation derived from external sources such as financial gain, public recognition, increasing reputation, or the prestige coming from accomplishing a goal. On the AMS, extrinsic motivation includes external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation and integrated regulation.

Acquired Needs Theory: Individuals have an internal desire to make a significant impact through gaining increased levels of power from task mastery, to approval, recognition, improving standing among peers, and finally impacting the environment through influence of power.

Self Determination Theory (SDT): Explains the type of regulation and the degree by which behaviors are self-determined versus controlled, i.e. intrinsic versus extrinsic.

Achievement Goal Theory: The orientation of either Mastery or Performance goals of an individual will impact motivation and reactions to failure.

Academic Motivation: Academic motivation is defined by a student’s desire (as reflected in approach, persistence, and level of interest) regarding academic subjects when the student’s competence is judged against a standard of performance or excellence ( McClelland, et al., 1953 ). Academic motivation is a broad term incorporating many concepts studied by scholars to include self-efficacy, determination, resilience, etc. All of these terms incorporate characteristics related to motivation. While connections was drawn between academic motivation and some of these terms, for the purpose of this study, the definition of Academic Motivation will encompass these terms.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: A continuum of needs starting with basic needs of the body such as physical needs of shelter and food, through needs for affection, intellectual pursuits, and self-actualization within the mind. It is important to note that progression through the hierarchy requires satisfying needs at each level before progression is possible.

Social Cognitive Theory: Self-efficacy is the most predictive element of personal outcomes. It is the level of confidence or judgment an individual has regarding his or her ability to accomplish a goal, which has a direct impact on the outcome.

Two Factor Theory: Individuals at work are either satisfied or dissatisfied, but the construct of satisfaction is not located on opposite sides of a continuum. The absence of happiness at work does not equate to unhappiness and vice versa.

Personal Causation: The perspective that one has control over his behavior and the resulting outcomes.

Expectancy Value Theory: Behaviors are the result of our combined past experiences and the value of one’s goal/s ( Wigfield & Eccles, 2000 ). When more than one option for action exists, an individual would select the option with the best combination of evidence for achievement and the value of achieving a specific goal.

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