Psychology: How Beliefs and Context Influence Motivation for Learning

Title: Students’ Understanding of How Beliefs and Context Influence Motivation for Learning
Discipline or Field: Psychology
Authors: Tesia Marshik, Bill Cerbin, Katy Kortenkamp, Roger Dixon, UW-La Crosse


Our overarching goal for this lesson study was for students to understand and perceive the relevance of motivation theories and to be able to apply these theories to their lives (as students and as future teachers). From a specific lesson standpoint, our goals were for students to correctly identify different achievement goal orientations (i.e., mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoid goals), to experience how such orientations affect students’ behaviors and performance in the classroom, and to understand how personal and contextual factors shape individuals’ goal orientations.  To meet these ends, we developed a 2×2 between-participants experiment in which we attempted to manipulate students’ goal orientations and performance on an anagram task. Each student received one of two different sets of anagrams to solve: the last word for each group was the same (“cinerama”), but the preceding words were either solvable (“melon” and “baker”) or unsolvable (“whirl” and “slapstick”). Furthermore, students were given two different sets of instructions: one set promoted performance goals while the other set promoted mastery goals. As a class, students completed the anagrams one-at-a-time and publicly indicated when they solved each anagram. Afterwards, students answered a series of questions about the task regarding their personal enjoyment, persistence, efforts, etc.  Students were then debriefed and we had small-group and full-class discussions about the relevant motivation theories. Through observations and analyses of students’ responses in-class and via the questionnaires, we found that the lesson was overall successful in terms of increasing students’ understanding of the effects of different achievement goals. The lesson seemed to be especially salient/powerful for students in the “performance goal and unsolvable task” condition (who likely experienced learned helplessness during the activity). On the other hand, students in the “mastery goal and easy task” condition seemed to be the least engaged.

Psychology Lesson Study: How Beliefs and Context Influence Motivation for Learning (Final Report)

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