Motivation Theories in Education

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The reason why we study psychology in education is to understand why human beings act the way they do. One other reason is to influence, by changing or improving, their actions. Motivation is only one of the central issues in psychology. However, it is one of education as well.

The importance of motivation in learning has long been established and certainly much has been written about it. However, we still seem to encounter a problem when it comes to knowing what motivation exactly is. As Drucker puts it, “We know nothing about motivation. All we can do is write about it.” Whatever is being aroused by the smart use of reinforcers remains largely mysterious and elusive.

“Motivation, like the concept of gravity, is easier to describe (in terms of its outward, observable effects), than it is to define. Of course, this has not stopped people from trying.” Covington, 1998

Simply put, motivation justifies behaviour. Why, for example, does a student decide to misbehave in class? Why does another one behave? The answer to these questions is very simple. Different people have different reasons to achieve different things. A student might misbehave in class in order to gain his class mates’ attention. What students learn, how much they remember and how engaged they become in the process depends largely on which reasons for learning dominate.

Over the past several decades, two broadly different conceptions of achievement motivation have emerged (Covington, 1992). One perspective views motivation as a drive, that is, an internal state or need that impels individuals toward action (Heyman & Dweck, 1992). A second perspective considers motivation in terms of goals or incentives that draw, not drive, individuals toward action (Heyman & Dweck, 1992).

Motives as Drives
Three major theories fall under this conception of achievement motivation.

First we find the Need Achievement Theory which was developed initially by John Atkinson (1957/1987) and by David...
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