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Motivation and learning*

Circumstances and teacher practices can affect several different kinds of states of mind in the student, and those could affect learning in different ways. So the following is a bit complex but also offers a lot for teachers to think about or do.

To tame the table, first read the column headings from left to right, as one sentence. Then look for factors that you can influence, for example, the classroom contextual factors, or the motivational factors.

Classroom contextual factors

affect situational motivational factors

that interact with cognitive factors

and with mediating conditions

to produce conceptual changes.

Class tasks should be meaningful, challenging and authentic to life outside school.

Students should be given optimal choices and optimal challenges.

Evaluation should be not comparative and competitive but improvement-based. Mistakes should be treated as positives.

Classroom management should include careful use of time and norms for engagement.

The teacher should verbalize and model scientific thinking, scientific dispositions, and coping strategies.

The teacher should scaffold cognition, motivation and interaction.

The classroom community should be committed to understanding.

Mastery learning goals vs. performance goals (grades, beating others) vs. focus on the self.

Learning goals: avoiding closure vs. seeking closure; best answer vs. any answer.

Personal interest--general attitude or preference--in a subject matter.

Perceived utility value ( exchange value) of a subject matter.

Importance of the subject matter to the learner relative to self-schema.

Self-efficacy beliefs about one's capabilities for tasks in specific domains.

Control beliefs: I can do this; If I do this, I will accomplish that; I can learn and get good grades.

Selective attention, e.g., to become dissatisfied with one's idea one must attend to the discrepant information.

Activation of prior knowledge.

Deeper processing, e.g., elaboration, paraphrasing, summarizing, organization, concept mapping, networking.

Problem finding and solving.

Metacognitive evaluation and control, e.g., comparing one's current idea and an alternative idea.

Volitional control and regulation (persistence).

Dissatisfaction with one's current conception of a matter (shown problems it doesnt' solve).

Intelligibility to the learner of an alternative conception of the same matter; learner's ability to represent the alternative.

Plausibility to the learner of an alternative conception of the same matter; it seems to fit their current ecology of ideas.

Learner's estimate of the fruitfulness of an alternative conception of the same matter; it opens to something interesting and worthwhile.

For example, conception of pupils as diverse constructors of meaning, as distinct from containers for receiving information.

For example, a conception of organisms as randomly varying and naturally selected, as distinct from designed.



Statements from the source text*

Research on student cognition has demonstrated that students' prior conceptual knowledge influences all aspects of students' processing of information from their perception of the cues in the environment, to their selective attention to these cues, to their encoding and levels of processing of information, to their search for retrieval of information and comprehension, to their thinking and problem solving. . . . [C]ognition-only models of student learning do not adequately explain why students who seem to have the requisite prior conceptual knowledge do not activtate this knowledge for many school tasks, let alone out-of-school tasks . . . [W]e will discuss both individual differences in motivational beliefs as well as classroom contextual factors that may contribute to this problem. (pp. 167-8, emphasis added)

These three aspects of an individual's behavior--choice of task, level of engagement or activity in the task, and willingness to persist in the task--are the three traditional behavioral indicators of motivation. . . [T]here has been little research or theory development that attempts to link motivation and cognition. . . it seems important to begin to build the connections between the motivational and cognitive components of student learning. . . . Besides the intraindividual links between motivational and cognitive components of learning, the actual classroom context may influence students' movation and cognition and, most importantly, interaction between these two constructs. . . . The purpose of this article is to present a conceptual analysis of the relations between motivational factors and student cognition as well as an analysis of classroom contextual factors that may condition the relations between student motivation and cognition. (pp. 168-9)

[T]here is beginning to be a remarkable consistency at a macrolevel of analysis on the cognitive factors that influence learning including knowledge, cognitive learning strategies, problem solving or thinking strategies, and metacognitive and self-regulation strategies. (p. 174).


A second assumption of our model is that these various cognitive processes can be influenced by students' motivational beliefs. . . Our list of motivational beliefs is derived from a social cognitive perspective on motivation that highlights the important role that students' beliefs and interpretations of actual events play in motivational dynamics. (p. 176)

The research that examines the interaction of these different types of goals, cognition and conceptual change, should focus on domain-specific measures and link them to students' cognition and conceptual change for very specific types of cognitive tasks and content, not use omnibus measures of goals that may not be related to the more specific knowledge and strategy in different domains. (p. 181)

[T]he learners' contribution to the zone of proximal development can be seen to have three essential features: prior knowledge and conceptual understanding of the subject matter, cognitive strategies and tools for mastering new learning and motivational factors such as self-efficacy beliefs that serve to mediate the student's attempts at learning new and potentially difficult material. (p. 187)

Our critique of the conceptual change model raises four issues. First, prior knowledge plays a paradoxical role in conceptual change . . . The second issue pertains to the implications and limitations of the conceptual ecology metaphor . . . Third, the model states four conditions for conceptual change . . depicted as if they operated in a cold rational manner . . . The fourth issue is the validity of the notions of child as scientist and the classroom as a community of scientists . . . (p. 192)


*Pintrich, P. R., Marx, R. W., & Boyle, R. A. (1993). Beyond cold conceptual change: The role of motivational beliefs and classroom contextual factors in the process of conceptual change. Review of Educational Research, 63 (2), 167-199.