Be Able To Identify Obstacles To Motivation And Learn To Address Those Obstacles

Learning Objectives:
At the conclusion of this learning activity, you will be able to:
(1) State the two factors that influence learners’ motivation to learn
(2) Diagnose potential causes of poor learner motivation
(3) Recognize opportunities for enhancing learners’ motivation

Learning is an active process. Learning requires that the learner be motivated to work for the knowledge. As teachers, one of the most effective things we can do for our learners is maximize their motivation to learn.

In 1964 Vroom characterized a powerful model for understanding motivation. According to his theory, motivation is dependent upon two things: 1) the degree to which the learner values learning the information and 2) the learner’s confidence in his/her ability to learn the material, which is called the learner’s “expectancy.”

The equation states: Motivation (M) = Value (V) x Expectancy (E)

So, to maximize motivation, you need both value and expectancy to be high. This is important for you as a teacher for two reasons:

1) If you encounter a student who appears unmotivated, the first thing you should do is determine whether the lack of motivation is due to low value (why put in any effort to learning something if you really don’t see the point of learning it?) or due to low expectancy (why try really hard to learn something if you’re sure you’re going to fail at it anyway?). As soon as you know which of these two possibilities is the cause of the low motivation, you can address the problem directly.

2) Easy tasks tend to produce low value and hard tasks tend to produce low expectancy. Because motivation is the product of these two factors, if one is low, motivation is necessarily low (0 x infinity = 0; infinity x 0 = 0, but 5 x 5 equals 25, so you’re best off trying to keep both values in the middle. Let’s consider an example: A woman is 100 lbs overweight and has failed in her last three diets. If you challenge her to loose 100 lbs, she’s likely to feel that she’s not capable of such weight loss, which means her expectancy is close to 0. No matter how much she might value losing 100 lbs, a big number x 0 = 0. Alternatively, if you suggest that this woman simply aim to lose 3 lbs, she’s likely to feel capable of such a weight loss (high expectancy), but she’s not likely to consider the loss of 3 lbs to be very valuable (“I’ll be just as fat”), so again, the total equation comes to 0. If, however, you present her with a moderate challenge, like losing 20 lbs, she’s likely to feel a reasonable value and have a reasonable expectancy, and the product of those two numbers will provide sufficient motivation for her to try. The same is true of the material you teach: your student will be most motivated when presented with an “intermediate challenge” such that both value and expectancy are maximized.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.