Learning Design and Technology: Motivational Influences of the Attribution Theory
In an interview conducted on a Northwestern student named John in May 9, 2008, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, the answers reflected that his locus of control was internal, and that the case was unstable and controllable. Because his motivation is external (e.g., financial gains), and the problem is in the internal (e.g., lack of interest and time), then the way to do it would be to potentially switch his motivation from external to internal by means of the following strategies: first, emphasize his internal control of performance; second, show him the benefits of learning intrinsically; third, use extrinsic rewards and move to the intrinsic, natural reinforcers. This can be achieved through the use of Aptitude-Treatment Interactions (A.T.I.) and interactivity, as well as individualized or group training.
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Learning Design and Technology: Motivational Influences of the Attribution Theory
Motivation can be influenced by different strategies that depend on the individual’s personality and context. There are certain things that people desire in their lives, and the best strategy to motivate learning should go well with the internal and external context of the person. Because motivational strategies are external, the best way to determine the best type and amount of strategy would be to analyze the individual’s internal context and personality.
It was Friday afternoon, May 9, 2008, when I sat just next to the [specific place at Northwestern] at Northwestern, and waited for an associate of mine to arrive, whom we shall call John. He agreed recently that I write down his answers to some queries, so I made ready my paper and pen, and waited until he arrived which turned out to be only minutes after I sat down. The focus of our conversation was to find out certain things about his way of learning and the motivational influences that go with it.
In May 9, 2008, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, the following answers were derived from John, as we sat in the [specific place at Northwestern] here at Northwestern:
What was the last test you took in one of your classes? When was this?
My last test was in History class. It was done just this Wednesday.
How did you do in that test?
Well, it was fine. Not very good but not very bad either. It was a little over the line I guess.
Why do you think you received that score?
Well, I don’t know… I know about the topic and I have read the material. That was why I passed the test.
Do you think you deserved that score? Why?
Well, I don’t know. I was, in fact, lucky to have that score because I didn’t so much as open my book the day before the test. I feel that I don’t deserve it actually.
Do you think you were motivated during that time? Why?
Nope, it wasn’t because I was thinking of something else. I wasn’t mentally bothered when I took the exam. I was not in the least motivated. In fact I was hurrying to go out of class because I had somewhere to go after that.
What exactly motivated you? If you were not, then what exactly was missing?
I wasn’t motivated, so what, I think, was missing was that… Oh, that’s a hard question. I think what was missing was that motivation inside me, ever since my dad went away and, since then, I couldn’t focus on a single thing and I was always hurrying and scurrying… I don’t know. It’s really crazy!
Was it like that in your other tests?
Well, I do well in other subjects like literature and arts, and even in accounting… those stuffs. It’s really nuts! ‘Coz history should be linked to literature and arts I should also have had high scores in history.
Do you think the event was under your control? Why?
Well, it can be, yes. But I don’t think I want to control it. Lol!
Is there a way to control it?
There is if I want to. But the problem is that I don’t feel like I want to.
What, for you, is success when we speak of learning? Explain.
Well, for me, success in learning is learning what you want to and when you want to… and for the purposes that you want. Success is learning what you want and when you want… because it steams up the drive in you.
Do you want educational success? Why?
(Sighs) I think I haven’t really focused on education. I was more focused on work and earning money because it was what I need now. I mean… I need money now, and studying doesn’t give me any financial credit right now. I want educational success of course, but after I’ve gotten food on my plate.
Analysis & Categorization
From the answers that were derived from the interview, the following can be said about John in terms of learning and motivation, and in application of the Attribution theory:
Locus of control
The locus of control is the degree to which a person believes he or she has control over a particular situation. In the case of John, it appears that he knows that he has personal control over his studies: “I know about the topic and I have read the material. That was why I passed the test (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008).” That was the basic reason why he felt that he does not really deserve that score because he knew that he really did not exert much effort on it: “I was, in fact, lucky to have that score because I didn’t so much as open my book the day before the test. I feel that I don’t deserve it actually (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008).”
The response therefore shows that there was an internal locus of control over the test result. Although John responded with statements showing that external events had been in play around the time that the test took place, it was clear that he himself had no desire to study for the test. The attribution of his stressful state towards work, the loss of his father, and the appointments he had to keep after the test time may not be considered as external predictors of locus of control. John clearly states that he himself had no desire to review his lessons or study for the exam. It is this lack of desire which he attributes to the extraneous circumstances. But there is no doubt in John’s mind that his test result was a direct effect of his lack of effort to study.
The situation thus reflects that John is not intrinsically motivated to pursue good grades in his class. The lack of intrinsic motivation is caused by the greater motivation to see to the needs cropping up in other areas in his life – work and family. There is thus a need to stimulate the drive derived from a personal desire to achieve success in the particular course. The lack of interest in his studies has driven John to find fulfillment in other alternative areas.
Stability speaks of the variance in disposition across situations and across time. Therefore, if there is great variance in behavior, the behavior is said to be unstable whereas, if the behavior is constant and unchanging, it is deemed stable. Despite John’s confessed lack of interest in his History class, it may be seen that he has an active interest in his other courses. John gets high test scores in his other classes: “Well, I do well in other subjects like literature and arts, and even in accounting… those stuffs. It’s really nuts! Coz history should be linked to literature and arts I should also have had high scores in history (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008).” This reflects that in other courses, past and present, John has been able to intrinsically motivate himself whereas in this particular course he finds no desire to study or perform well.
John may also have been affected by certain personal events: “I think what was missing was that motivation inside me, ever since my dad went away and, since then, I couldn’t focus on a single thing and I was always hurrying and scurrying (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008).” This statement reflects that John is a student beset with the problems of providing for his own needs. More than that however, this statement implies that the change in behavior regarding intrinsic motivation may have cropped up only after his father went away.
This reflects that indeed the trouble with John’s grade is an unstable situation. His past experience with studying shows that he is a conscientious student who is willing to put in the work required to get good grades in the course. However, his motivation has gone askew thus thrusting him into his current situation in his History class.
Controllability speaks of the capacity of the person to change his circumstance and to take charge of the situation to manipulate the result. From John’s answers, it is clear that he perceives the ability to control the matter should he desire to do so. Therefore, the situation, albeit unstable, is controllable. The problem, however, is the lack of desire to take control over the situation. “There is (a way to control it) if I want to. But the problem is that I don’t feel like I want to… Success is learning what you want and when you want… because it steams up the drive in you (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008).”
It can thus be seen that although the situation is controllable for John, the lack of intrinsic motivation is a stronger predictor of his subsequent actions. What is required therefore is a stimulation of John’s interests so that he might give importance to and derive a sense of accomplishment from his History class. Considering the complacent John has adopted towards studying in general, stimulation of interest should be directed not only to the particular class but to his learning program as a whole.
Given John’s situation, the regulatory focus should be by means of promotion, particularly so since his other courses reflect scores that are above average in excellence. One way to motivate him in his History class is by promoting him to a standing that is at par with that of his other courses wherein he finds himself performing well – such as literature, for example. This may be achieved through interaction, with other students encountering problems in the particular course. Other interventions may be utilized but given that the problem is a lack of inherent appreciation for the course, promotion presents itself as an optimal solution to the situation.
Principles & Strategies
Currently, the locus of control for John’s case is internal. However, the learning setting may be manipulated in order to place the locus of control in an external source. According to Rod Sims (1997), interactivity refers to “a necessary and fundamental mechanism for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills” (p.1). By changing the interaction setting, the manner of acquiring knowledge may be placed under the supervision of a person other than the student, like a teacher or a program, for example.
This can be very effective nowadays, since the use of the World Wide Web and multimedia has led to what is called the ‘interactive multimedia’ or IMM (Sims, 1997, p.1). According to Sims (1997), “Generally, the quality of the interaction in microcomputer coursework is a function of the nature of the learner’s response and the computer’s feedback. If the response is consistent with the learner’s information processing needs, then it is meaningful” (p.1). By using this, training, learning and proficiency is enhanced, as based on individual differences, especially the intraindividual differences or those that “transpire within a person as he or she progresses from novice to expert in acquiring some knowledge or skill” (Shute, Lajoie, & Gluck, 2000, p.172). This aspect of individual differences is very significant because it reflects the individual’s learning ability, or his or her personal learning curve, as mentioned by Shute, Lajoie, and Gluck (2000, p.172).
The use of what is called aptitude-treatment interactions of ATI follows the notion that “many kinds of learner characteristics affect what is learned in an instructional setting” (Shute, Lajoie, & Gluck, 2000, p.174). Here, certain aptitudes should be measured well. To be able to come up with the perfect blend of aptitudes, four dimensions have to be considered: first, the subject matter; second, the learning/training environment; third, desired knowledge outcome, fourth and final, the learner attributes (Shute, Lajoie, & Gluck, 2000, p.175).
In the case of John, the following defines his blend of aptitudes: first, the subject matter concerns interest in learning history; second, the learning/training environment should reflect ease, comfort, and liberty that includes promotion for increase in motivation; third, desired knowledge outcome concerns increase of knowledge, skill, and interest in history; fourth and final, learner attributes defines one that is de-motivated, failure-accepting student.
One solution therefore to the problem, is by taking the control away from the learner and centering it on the teacher. If John were to be placed in a class wherein the textbook were not the primary means of obtaining information, he would have to rely on the instructor in order to be able to understand concepts and course directions. Should it be the case that the locus of control is relieved from John, there is a greater possibility of even raising his motivation to do well in class. The introduction of another stimulus or a separate grading mechanism would cause John to view studying as more than just a personal matter of reading and rewriting what has been read.
John’s response reflects a state that is internal, unstable, and controllable. The way to improve it would be to use the cognitive approach in motivating the individual to increase the degree of learning and motivation. However, because his motivation is external (e.g., financial gains), and the problem is in terms of the internal (e.g., lack of interest and time), then the way to do it would be to potentially switch his motivation from external to internal by means of the following strategies: first, emphasize his internal control of performance; second, show him the benefits of learning intrinsically; third, use extrinsic rewards and move to the intrinsic, natural reinforcers. This can be achieved through the use of Aptitude-Treatment Interactions (A.T.I.) and interactivity, as well as individualized or group training.
John’s remaining course experiences can still be modified, to build an internal locus of control, by allowing him to see that financial gains (which are external) can be achieved by means of educational gains (which is internal). He should understand that he has great control over the situation: that he should be the one to control the circumstances and not the other way around. Extrinsic rewards can also be used, such as distinction. There is, however, no need for John to realize how his studies affect his ego, since he really does not care about how others think of it. When he begins to see the real value of studying, the next step would be for him to create his own goals, which he wishes to accomplish by studying. Motivation reaches the internal degree when John begins to enjoy what he is doing, and there is an inherent satisfaction gained in continuous learning.
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