Motivation is not constant

There is an interesting piece of research that shows just how much motivation varies even over a short period of time. Dr Julia Dietrich of Friedrich Schiller University investigated students’ motivations in 10 lessons. In each lesson, they recorded their level of motivation at that particular moment using smart phones (or paper).

The researchers wanted to know how competent the students felt at that particular moment, whether they understood the material or found it difficult to follow the lecture. They were also asked whether they enjoyed the content of the lecture and whether they found it useful,” explains Dietrich.

To me, this sounds like something considerably more than just ‘motivations’. I don’t see that perceived competence is necessarily the same as motivation, and in fact a gap in competence may cause some students to be more motivated.

However, the researchers’ findings are interesting in showing the variability of psychological factors over the course of a lesson. They report that:

” motivation fluctuated much more strongly during the 90 minutes than had previously been assumed. During a lecture, every single participant experienced phases of high motivation and of strong demotivation — completely independently of the other students in relation to the timing of those phases.”

In other words, the students may be motivated at any particular moment regardless of whether the other students in the class are motivated, a finding which reminds us that all learning ultimately takes place within the personal world of a single learner rather than within a classroom. It also reminds us that good teaching does not always produce good learning – there is so much more going on in the world of the learner.

Science Digest Article:

Journal Reference: Julia Dietrich, Jaana Viljaranta, Julia Moeller, Bärbel Kracke. Situational expectancies and task values: Associations with students’ effort. Learning and Instruction, 2017; 47: 53 DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.10.009


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