Using Virtual Environments to Motivate Students to Pursue STEM Careers: An Expectancy-Value Model

Using Virtual Environments to Motivate Students to Pursue STEM Careers: An Expectancy-Value Model

Jason A. Chen (The College of William and Mary, USA), Nick Zap (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and Chris Dede (Harvard University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2670-6.ch003


The purpose of this chapter is to bring a rigorous and well-studied theoretical framework of motivation to the study and design of virtual learning environments. The authors outline the key motivation constructs that compose Eccles and Wigfield’s Expectancy-Value Theory (e.g., Eccles, et al., 1989; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992, 2000), and how it can be used in the creation of a virtual learning environment designed to promote students’ interest in and motivation to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers. In addition, using Brophy’s (1999) model of the motivated learner, the authors outline how this type of motivational virtual environment can be incorporated in classroom instruction to further bolster adolescents’ motivation and competence in mathematics. Finally, they describe a NSF-funded project underway at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education that seeks to develop a 4-day mathematics intervention, merging innovative technologies with regular classroom instruction to spark students’ interest in STEM careers.
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Expectancy-Value Models Of Motivation

Although there has been a wealth of research exploring motivation within technological environments, very few of these studies employ frameworks that are grounded in well-studied theories of motivation (Moos & Marroquin, 2010). Eccles and Wigfield’s Expectancy-Value theory of motivation (e.g., Eccles, 1983, 1987, 1993; Eccles, et al., 1989; Wigfield, 1994; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992, 2000) provides a useful framework for understanding students’ beliefs about how competent they are and what they value within the context of their academic studies. The motivation constructs we describe below are theoretically grounded and have been extensively studied in educational contexts.

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