2e. Motivation

Motivation: A General Overview of Theories

Shiang-Kwei Wang
Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia

Review of Motivation


Click Here for a short narrated Powerpoint. This narrated PowerPoint explains the differences between Mastery and Performance Goals, and their influence on student learning and motivation. . Click Here to download the narration as a pdf file. By Kim Hardwick, Whitney Powell, and Erika Robinson (2011).

Definition of Goals

A goal is “something that the person wants to achieve” (Locke & Latham, 1990, p.2). A teacher’s goal might be ” to help students understand the concept of an ellipse within one week;” A typical goal for a student could be “earning an ‘A’ in foreign language class.”

Formation of Goals

Long and short-term goals

Long-term goals keep behavior directed toward an ultimate target, while short-term goals are the steppingstones to the long-term goals (Alderman 1999). Bandura and Schunk’s research (Bandura & Schunk, 1981) on proximal motivation indicated that this sub-dividing of accomplishable short-term goals would help students to progress at a more rapid pace. They concluded that self-motivation can best be created and sustained by attainable sub-goals that lead to the larger goals.

An example of goal formations might be:

Long-term goal: I want to be a good piano player.
Proximal goals and progress: Prepare for concert.
Practice 2 hours every day

Goal Setting

Expressions such as “intend to” or “desire to” are often used in setting goals. For example, “I intend to run a marathon this year.” Goal setting is simply defined as “a specific outcome that an individual is striving to achieve” (Alderman 1999).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs stresses personal growth and development. Goals are set to satisfy needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs to classify human needs into five general categories. Those needs that are higher in the hierarchy are considered more important, and cannot be satisfied unless the needs below them in the hierarchy are satisfied first. Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs can help explain differences in behavior between individuals.

This is supposed to be a flash animation. You’ll need the flash plugin and a browser that supports it to view it.

Caption: The Flash animation above depicts Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He used it to explain human motivation. He identified 5 levels of need, physical needs, safety/security needs, belongingness/love needs, esteem needs, and self actualization. As these various needs are met an individual moves through the hierarchy. Each level is subordinate to the level above it and the needs are constantly changing. In this illustration a small human figure is depicted with a bright blue sky, white fluffy clouds, green grass and flowers that are blooming. The hierarchy, only a small portion or the first level is visible, will be represented by a triangle shaped mountain. As the human starts to climb the mountain, there is only the first level of the hierarchy, physical needs, showing. Physical needs are food, water and shelter represented by bread, butter, a droplet of water and the sun. The human climbs this level and the second level of needs, safety and security, appears. Safety and security needs are met when there is protection from physical and emotional harm. These needs are represented by the icons ‘no violence’ and ‘peace.’ As the human climbs up this level of needs, the next level, belongingness and love needs, appears. The need to feel loved and accepted by others is represented by a heart (for love) and a home where family and friends provide support. Continuing the climb, the human reaches the esteem needs level. The need to be respected and to have confidence is illustrated with a smiling face and a human with upraised arms. The smile and celebration of victory are possible because of the lower level of needs being met. The human climbs to the pinnacle of the mountain, the level of self actualization needs. Self actualization means individuals need to be true to their own nature and seek self fulfillment. These needs are represented by an icon showing the ‘thumbs up’ symbol, signifying that everything is OK, the human is able to live at full potential and be creative. The human climber in this animation is depicted on top of the mountain (the hierarchy of needs) with a crown of victory. Victory at meeting the Hierarchy of Needs means the climber is poised to learn and excel. This Flash animation was design and developed by Imei Ma, Jo Albert-Hill and Kevin Powell. (2004).

Goal difficulty

A sub-goal does not imply an easier goal. Locke & Latham (1990) suggested that more difficult goals will enhance performance level, especially when the task is performed voluntarily. Setting up rigid and realistic goals based on the learner’s competence, therefore, is more effective than setting easy goals.


Feedback on learning or training progress helps learners know if their goals are being met, and if not, how to improve achievement of goals. Bandura (1993) suggested that positive feedback enhances motivation, while negative feedback that emphasizes deficiencies will lower the self-efficacy of learners.

Goal Orientation Theories

Performance goals vs. Mastery goals

According to Ames’ study (1988), when performance goals are involved, there is a concern with having one’s ability judged. Success is evidence of ability, shown by outperforming others, or by achieving success with little effort. With a mastery goal, importance is attached to developing new skills. The process of learning itself is valued, and the attainment of mastery is seen as dependent on effort.

Here is an example comparing mastery and performance goals:

Mastery goal: Understanding the class materials is more important than earning a high grade, and that’s why I work hard to learn. My performance is better than it was at the beginning of the semester.

Performance goal: I want to avoid mistakes so I can get a good grade. That’s the reward for studying hard; my performance is better than other students.

The positive cognitive effect on learners adopting mastery goals has been verified in many research studies (Pintrich, 1996, p. 241).

Ames (1992) created a matrix to present the classroom structure and instructional strategies supporting a mastery goal as shown below:

Table 1. Classroom structure and instructional strategies supporting a mastery goal
Structure Instructional Strategies Motivation Patterns
  • Focus on the meaningful aspects of learning activities
  • Design tasks for novelty, variety, diversity, and student interest
  • Design tasks that offer reasonable challenge to students
  • Help students establish short-term, self-referenced goals
  • Support the development and use of effective learning strategies
  • Focus on effort and learning
  • High intrinsic interest in activity
  • Attributions to effort
  • Attributions to effort-based strategies
  • Use of effective learning and other self-regulatory strategies
  • Active engagement
  • Positive affect on high effort tasks
  • Feelings of belongingness
  • “Failure-tolerance”
  • Focus on helping students participate in the decision making
  • Provide “real” choices where decisions are based on effort, not ability evaluations
  • Give opportunities to develop responsibility and independence
  • Support development and use of self-management and monitoring skill
Evaluation/ Recognition
  • Focus on individual improvement, progress, and mastery
  • Make evaluation private, not public
  • Recognize students’ effort
  • Provide opportunities for improvement
  • Encourage view of mistakes as part of learning

Source: Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, V. 84, N.3, p. 261-271.



Self-efficacy affects some of the factors that predict motivation. According to Bandura (1982), self-efficacy is a self-judgment of one’s ability to perform a task in a specific domain. However, a high degree of self-efficacy in one domain does not necessarily transfer to other areas of endeavor. High self-efficacy positively affects performance; this good performance will in turn enhance self-efficacy .

Sources of Self-Efficacy

Bandura (1997) identified four phenomena that affect self-efficacy:

  • Mastery experiences

Mastery experience is one’s personal experience with success or failure. For example, the positive experience of a good performance on the previous math exam, will influence the perception of one’s ability in math.

  • Vicarious experiences

Self-efficacy can be affected by observing the experiences of others. Students who observe a model successfully perform in a threatening situation are more likely to develop the expectation that they can acquire the same skill (Alderman, 1999). The learners can imitate their models’ skills, or copy the strategies that the models use.

  • Verbal persuasion

Learners can be motivated by using verbal feedback to convince or encourage them to accomplish their tasks. For example, simply telling students, “you can do it” is a commonly used strategy. However, instructors should be conscious of the messages that they use. Bandura pointed out that negative messages have an even greater effect on lowering efficacy expectations than do positive messages to increase it.

  • Physiological state

Anxiety, nervousness, rapid heart rate, sweating; these symptoms often occur when learners face challenges that require competence to overcome. Such physical or mental states reflect learner perceptions of their self-efficacy; these in turn affect their performance.

Improving Self-Efficacy

There are various means of strengthening self-efficacy.

Feedback: Encouragement and in-depth, informative feedback from teachers are important influence on self-efficacy. The teachers should also emphasize the rationale of why some strategies that the learners use are successful and why some fail.

Model: Exposing learners to an non-expert model (peer model) conquering the challenges successfully can help learners increase their motivation and self-efficacy. Another approach to enhance self-efficacy is learners observing the expert model solving problems with specific strategies or skills.

Successful experience: It is the teachers’ responsibility to help learners achieve academic success by providing challenging, yet attainable tasks . Successful experience is the most important source of fostering self-efficacy.

This is supposed to be a flash animation. You’ll need the flash plugin and a browser that supports it to view it.

Caption: This flash animation illustrates the journey of a teacher and student as the student’s self-efficacy increases. Sammy has low self-esteem, but his teacher sees a teachable moment in his desire to act and sing. She employs verbal persuasion with positive statements and peer modeling by having Sammy observe another successful classmate who had the same fears. She provides Sammy with specific feedback on his performance, and Sammy has a successful experience in his tryout as a result. By Jim Stewart, Jill Weldon, Celeste Buckhalter-Pittman, and Holly Frilot (2004).

Attribution Theory

Definition of Attributions

“Why did I successfully accomplish this task?”

“Why did Jack fail math?”

The answers to these questions reflect personal beliefs about the causes of results. Attribution theory is the study of how individuals explain events in their lives (Bruning, Schraw & Ronning, 1999, p.137). Knowing learners’ attributional beliefs can help instructors to address the value of effort.

Motivational Dimensions of Attributions

Weiner (1979) proposed that attribution can be explained through a three-dimensional classification of causality, with each class expressed in a continuum linking extremes. These three categories of attribution are:

  • Locus of control: internal-external

Causation for events may be placed in a continuum ranging from conditions completely within to those completely outside of the individual’s influence. Locus of control refers to the degree to which results are due to factors inside (internal locus of control) or outside (external locus of control) an individual. For instance, factors such as mood and ability are internal causes; luck and teacher bias are external causes.

  • Stability: stable-unstable

Stability refers to an unchanging cause . Consider the following statement: “I’m good at playing guitar because I’ve practiced for more than a year”. In this case, the ability to play guitar is a stable cause for this person. Or this: “I got an A in math this time because the test was very easy. Almost everyone made an A.” Such a belief suggests that the successful performance resulted from chance; the easy test is an inconsistent or unstable cause.

  • Controllability: controllable-uncontrollable

Controllability refers to those factors that can be controlled to influence results. Skill and competence are classified as controllable, while luck and mood are classified as uncontrollable.

The Attributional Process

From a review of attributional theories, Pintrich and Schunk (1996) generated a model to present the attributional process. This model provides the effect of attribution on motivational, affective, and behavioral consequences. The incidents can be classified as either environmental or personal factors. An individual will attribute these incidents to the perceived causes and different causal dimensions. These causes will affect an individual’s psychological consequences and influence behaviors. The overview of the general attributional model can help in gaining an understanding of the attributional process.

Table 2. Attributional Process
Antecedent Conditions Perceived Causes Causal Dimensions Psychological Consequences Behavioral Consequences
Environmental factors

  • Specific information
  • Social norms
  • Situational Features
Attributions for
Task difficulty
Fatigue, etc.
Expectancy for success
Level of effort
Personal factors

  • Causal schemas
  • Attributional bias
  • Prior knowledge
  • Individual differences

Source: Pintrich, P. R., & Schunk, D. H. (1996). Attributional processes. Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, p. 103-152

An Example

Allen is a gifted student, and usually performs well on exams. Last week, however, he failed a physics exam. Will he still invest his time in studying physics, and enjoy doing it?

In Allen’s case, he studied hard but performed poorly on the physics exam; the majority of the class failed the exam as well. After Allen had learned the class average for the exam and received feedback from the teacher (specific information), he attributed his failure to task difficulty rather than of a lack of effort. Thus, the cause of his failure is unstable, external, and uncontrollable. Given this causal information, his self-efficacy in physics would not decrease. He would continue to expect success, and to study physics.

Self-Regulation and Volition


Some independent learners require little attention from their teachers. They know how to adopt learning strategies, they understand their competencies in specific domains, and will commit to their academic goals. These students have volition and can be described as “self-regulated” learners. Zimmerman (1989) pointed out that students can be described as self-regulated to the degree that they are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning processes. Three assumptions are involved in the definition: self-regulated learning strategies, self-efficacy perceptions of skill performance, and a commitment to academic goals.

Self-regulated learning is determined by personal, environmental, and behavioral events:

Personal influences–students’ knowledge and goals Behavioral influences–self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction Environmental influences–verbal persuasion and modeling

Possible Selves

A vision of a possible self is the first step in developing self-regulation (Alderman, 1999). Possible selves are how one “images” the self and the future. Possible selves represent individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become (positive possible selves), and especially what they are afraid of becoming (negative possible selves) (Markus & Ruvolo, 1989). Examples of positive possible selves might be earning a master’s degree, becoming a good baseball player, or getting an “A” on a math exam. Negative possible selves could include fear of becoming homeless or failing a physics exam. Developing a positive view of the future helps learners enhance their motivation and commitment to academically supportive personal goals.

In his review of the literature, Alderman (1999) indicated that the formation of possible selves is influenced by developmental factors, sociocultural factors, attributional history and self-efficacy judgments. For example: John has an interest in media. He is influenced by his music teacher and decides to become a keyboard player. John tries to enhance his keyboard playing skills; his playing continually improves with practice. Encouragement from others and the positive experience of playing the keyboard increase his self-efficacy, which helps him to develop a concrete goal for the future. John attributes his success to internal, controllable, and stable causes. He stresses the value of effort over other factors.


Click Here for a short narrated Powerpoint. This narrated PowerPoint explains how Volition, while being an aspect of Self Regulation, differs in that it requires more from the learner in terms of being able to block outside disruptions. Click Here to download the narration in a word file. By Ansley Bennett, Rob Mosteller, and Anna Reitz (2007).

Volition is one of the most important factors contributing to self-regulation. According to Corno (1994, p. 229), volition is “the tendency to maintain focus and effort toward goals despite potential distractions”. For some reason, some learners overcome barriers and difficulties to ensure that academic goals are reached.

Corno and Zimmerman (1994) developed a volitional control activities list as below:

Activities in Volitional Enhancement Curriculum

  1. Teacher and students list possible distractions when studying.
  2. Teacher and students make a master list of the most frequent distractions and categorize them as to where they occur or if they were distracting thoughts.
  3. Teacher and students list ways that students usually handle distractions; then match the response with the distraction and evaluate how well it works. The most effective way is to refocus on the task.
  4. Teacher models and demonstrates both effective and ineffective responses to a distracting situation.
  5. Teacher leads students through a 20-item quiz requiring identification and classification of more effective strategies.
  6. Using written scenarios, small groups of students role play more effective strategies for handling distractions. Peer audience evaluates actors’ strategies.
  7. Teacher reminds students that he or she will be looking for evidence of the students using strategies to handle distractions and do their work. The teacher selects key tasks to observe and records the amount of time on task by groups and individuals. Students self-evaluate; then results are discussed with students.

Source:Corno, L. (1994). Student volition and education: Outcomes, influences, and practices. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 229-254). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Self-regulation is not a fixed characteristic of learners. Employing appropriate strategies can help learners to develop self-regulation and volition to learn. Zimmerman (1998) designed a table to compare experts’ methods of self-regulation across different disciplines. Familiarity with these self-regulated methods is not only useful in learning, but once mastered, the techniques can be useful throughout life to function effectively in informal contexts.

Table 3. Self-regulatory Process
Area of Expertise
Self-regulatory Processes Writers Athletes Musicians Students
Goal setting Setting daily word or page goals Setting specific and quantifiable daily goals for training Setting daily practice session goals Making lists to accomplish during studying
Task strategies Creating outcomes or generative cues Knowing how and what to practice, for example, taking periodic breaks and slow execution Playing a piece slowly and softly Creating mnemonics to remember facts
Imagery Imagining a plot in visual detail Visualizing yourself successfully making the shot Imagining the presence of an audience Imagining the consequences of failing to study
Self-instruction Saying aloud what will be written Self-verbalizing confidence statements, for example, “let’s go!” Verbally praising or prompting oneself Rehearsing steps in solving a math problem
Time management Scheduling daily writing, especially time in the morning Setting up regular practice times, eating times, and relaxation and preparation periods Scheduling daily practice to avoid extremes Scheduling daily studying and homework time
Self-monitoring Keeping records of literary production Keeping a daily record of goal accomplishment or filming matches for replay Keeping daily records of performance, for example, stress levels Keeping records of completed assignments
Self-evaluation Putting off text self-judgments during creation Breaking game into components and evaluating yourself after each performance Listening to self-recording, setting realistic standards Checking work before handing it to the teacher
Self-consequences Putting off pleasurable events until writing is completed Grade yourself after every match Refusing to end practice until passage is played flawlessly Making TV or telephoning contingent on homework completion
Environmental structuring Controlling writing setting and conditions Building practice facility designed to develop weak part of one’s game Performing with specific tools or instruments, i.e., a metronome Studying in a secluded place
Help seeking Obtaining literary advice or feedback from colleague Returning to teacher when flaws develop in one’s game Returning to teachers when techniques slip Using a study partner

Source: Zimmerman, B. J. (1998). Academic studying and the development of personal skill: a self-regulatory perspective. Educational Psychologist, 33(2/3), p.73-86.

Self-Regulated Learning Strategies

Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons (1988) isolated the effective self-regulated learning strategies shown in the table below:

Table 4. Self-Regulated Learning Strategies
1. Self-evaluating Statements indicating student-initiated evaluations of the quality or progress of their work; e.g., “I check over my work to make sure I did it right”.
2. Organizing and transforming Statements indicating student-initiated overt or covert rearrangement of instructional materials to improve learning; e.g., “I make an outline before I write my paper”.
3. Goal-setting and planning Statements indicating students’ setting of educational goals or sub-goals, and planning for sequencing, timing, and completing activities related to those goals; e.g., “First, I start studying two weeks before the exams, and I pace myself.”
4. Seeking information Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to secure further task information from nonsocial sources when undertaking an assignment; e.g., “Before beginning to write the paper, I go to the library to get as much information as possible concerning the topic.”
5. Keeping records and monitoring Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to record events or results; e.g., “I took notes of the class discussions”; “I kept a list of the words I got wrong.”
6. Environmental structuring Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to select or arrange the physical setting to make learning easier, e.g., “I isolate myself from anything that distracts me”; “I turn off the radio so I can concentrate on what I am doing.”
7. Self-consequating Statements indicating student arrangement or imagination of rewards or punishment for success or failure; e.g., “If I do well on a test, I treat myself to a movie.”
8. Rehearsing and memorizing Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to memorize material by overt or covert practice; e.g., “In preparing for a math test, I keep writing the formula down until I remember it.”
9-11. Seeking social assistance Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to solicit help from peers (9), teachers (10), and adults (11); e.g., “If I have problems with math assignments, I ask a friend to help.”
12-14. Reviewing records Statements indicating student-initiated efforts to reread notes (12), tests (13), or textbooks (14) to prepare for class or further testing; e.g., “When preparing for a test, I review my notes.”

Source: Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). A social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning., Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(3), p. 337.

Click Here for a short video that clarifies the different strategies. In this scenario, a student named Janice is using self-regulated learning strategies to help motivate her to complete her assignment, a literature review. The strategies are prefaced with a brief definition of the strategies being used and followed by Janice verbalizing her thoughts. The strategies being used are: Self-evaluating, Organizing and Transforming, Goal-setting and Planning, Seeking Information, Keeping Records and Monitoring, Environmental Structuring, Self-consequating, Rehearsing and Memorizing, Seeking Social Assistance and Reviewing Records. She concludes her thought process with a statement indicating that the learning strategies have successfully motivated her. By Eun Ju Jung, Suhwa Lee, and Anita Zgambo (2007).


In general, self-regulated learners are aware of effective learning strategies for enhancing learning performance.

Intrinsic Motivation

Click Here for a short narrated PowerPoint on Enhancing Intrinsic Motivation. This PowerPoint explain the different ways to enhance intrinsic motivation, and lists strategies for using those in the media center. Click here to download the narration in a word file.  Click Here to download the narration as a pdf file. By: Meggan Ford, Laura Tolliver, and Kimberly Zuber (2011).


People often choose to invest considerable time in activities without apparent reward. The cause underlying such behaviors is intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is defined as engagement in actions for their own sake with the only tangible benefit being outcomes such as pleasure, learning, satisfaction, interest, or challenge. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation occurs when learners engage in activities for the purpose of attaining rewards, such as praise or high grades (Alderman, 1999). Engaging in behavior to avoid punishment is also regarded as an extrinsic motivation.

Enhancing Intrinsic Motivation

Some researchers believe that intrinsic motivation can be enhanced through the use of particular strategies, and have sought a correlation between the design of specific educational materials and an increase in learning performance. Thus far, studies have found no evidence to establish that the interest value of material is a determinant–as opposed to a consequence–of learning (Parker & Lepper, 1992). However, some useful strategies that can promote intrinsic motivation have been proposed.

Lepper and Hodell (1989) suggest four methods for enhancing intrinsic motivation:

Challenge: Design challenging activities which convey the message to the learners that they have competitive skills. It is essential to find a balance between learner competence and the difficulty of the goals. Overly difficult goals are unlikely to increase learner motivation to continue the task if the learners perceive they will never reach the goal. Likewise, goals that are too easily attained do not sufficiently challenge learners to encourage skill development.

Curiosity: Activities that create disequilibria for the learners can elicit curiosity. Presenting discrepant ideas–those that conflict with their prior knowledge or beliefs–can prompt students to seek information that will resolve the discrepancy. As with challenge, moderate discrepancies are most effective because they are easily incorporated into an individual’s mental framework; large discrepancies may be rapidly discounted (Pintrich & Schunk, 1996, p.277).

Control: A sense of responsibility will be better fostered in learners if they are allowed to make meaningful choices in the learning process.

Fantasy: The design of simulations and games that involve fantasy can increase intrinsic motivation.


Csikszentmihalyi (1985) used flow theory to explain cases in which subjects describe their experiences as intrinsically rewarding. When individuals engage in activities and lose awareness of time and space, they are involved with flow experiences.

Flow Model

Activities are enjoyable when challenges and skills are matched. Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model can explain the phenomenon.

This is supposed to be a flash animation. You’ll need the flash plugin and a browser that supports it to view it.

Caption: The Flash animation above depicts how flow works. There are two buttons; one is to increase challenge and the other is to decrease challenge. The animation begins in a state of flow. If you click on the increase challenge button, the status changes to ‘Anxiety.’ If you click decrease challenge you return to a state of flow. If you click decrease challenge again, the status changes to ‘Boredom.’ This animation was created on November 25, 2002, but I have lost the information about who created it. I apologize to the authors, but I wanted to make sure that your work was included in the book.

Assume an individual begins to play an instructional game. If the difficulty of the game increases with time, and the player can match its progress, he will move to position C (the flow state in the middle of the ladder above), representing a more complex experience. If the game is too easily won and the player makes no progress in his competence, he will become bored with the activity and move to position B1 (the area at the bottom of the ladder). If the game is too difficult to continue, he will soon move to position B2 (the area at the top of the ladder) and give up because he expects to continue to be unsuccessful..

Want to have the flow experience?

You can tell if you are in the flow experience when you are in the flow status. Try the game “Color Linez” designed by Olga Demina. This game was a present to Olga’s brother on his birthday.

Download Color Linez! (PC only) (save the file to your disk. Then double click the file name to play).

Did you have a flow experience within 5 minutes? Why did you play this game? Do you think the challenge matches your skill?

Click here to play Motivation Jeopardy! Caption: This is a Jeopardy game that will review your knowledge of motivation. Open the file with Microsoft PowerPoint. Created by Heather Abner, Kelly Earnest, and Jennifer Harbuck (2006).


Alderman, M. K. (1999). Goals and goal setting. Motivation for achievement: possibilities for teaching and learning. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ames, C., & Archer, J. (1988). Goals in the classroom: students’ learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 260-267.

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), p. 261-271

Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 586-598.

Bandura, A., (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 117-148.

Bandura, A., (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, p. 122-147.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Bruning, R. H., Schraw, G. J., & Ronning, R. R. (1999). Cognitive psychology and instruction. 3rd ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Corno, L. (1994). Student volition and education: Outcomes, influences, and practices. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 229-254). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1985). Emergent motivation and the evolution of the self. In D. Kleiber and M. H. Maehr (Eds.), Motivation in Adulthood (pp. 93-119). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Lepper, M. R., & Hodell, M. (1989). Intrinsic motivation in the classroom. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education (Vol. 3, PP 73-105). San Diego: Academic Press.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Markus, H. & Ruvolo, A. (1989). Possible selves: Personalized representations of goals. In L. Pervin (Ed.)., Goal concepts in personality and social psychology. (pp. 211-241). Hillsdale,NJ: Erlbaum

Motivation http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/motivation/motivate.html

Parker, L. E., & Lepper, M. R. (1992). Effects of fantasy contexts on children’s learning and motivation: making learning more fun., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(4), 625-633.

Pintrich, P. R., & Schunk, D. H. (1996). The role of goals and goal orientation. Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Weiner, B. (1979). A theory of motivation for some classroom experiences., Journal of Educational Psychology, 71(1), 3-25.

Steers, R. M., Mowday, R. T., & Shapiro, D. L. (2004). The future of work motivation theory. Academy of Management Review29(3).

Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). A social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning., Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(3), p. 329-339.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1998). Academic studying and the development of personal skill: a self-regulatory perspective. Educational Psychologist, 33(2/3), p.73-86.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1988). Construct validation of a strategy model of student self-regulated learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, p. 284-290.


By Lindsey Elrod, Titus Martin & Clayton Shaw (2007)

Ames, C. (1992). “Classrooms: Goals, Structures, and Student Motivation.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261-271.

The publication by Carole Ames describes the learning environment in relation to the theory of motivation and achievement. Ames helps to identify classroom structures and procedures that play a role in fostering motivation in students. Carole Ames is a professor of education psychology and the dean of the College of Education at Purdue University. She does much research on both competition and students’ motivation to learn in the classroom. The author aims to reach teachers and philosophers with this article in an effort to provide ways to help increase motivation and motivation building strategies in the classroom. This work is important because of its implications about students’ motivation and how specific strategies and procedures in the classroom truly affect students’ motivation to learn. By giving teachers the resources to fully understand the strategies that will help increase the motivation of their students in the classroom, motivation will increase, and furthermore, students’ knowledge will increase.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman. Albert Bandura, author of nine books and numerous scholarly journal articles, past-president of the American Psychological Association, and one of the leading psychologists, presents a complete explanation of self-efficacy as well as extensive applications of this theory as it relates to motivation in a variety of areas. In this his most recent work, he combines his previous research with new thought and commentary, as he explores the ability of humans to produce desired effects by their actions, through belief in their own ability. It examines the foundation of the theory, and the affects self-efficacy has on human welfare and achievements. Lastly it looks at how this theory can be applied to personally affect people’s lives. This exhaustive handling of the theory and its applications is the decisive work in this arena, and is composed by the leading authority of self-efficacy.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

The publication by Deci and Ryan highlights the theories of intrinsic motivation and self-determination as well as the history of both theories and the impact of both of child development. The authors also provide readers with alternative theories and then research which supports their beliefs. Both authors are professors in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology at the University of Rochester. The publication is aimed at those interested in the theories of motivation and determination and is recommended by readers to parents since it deals with child development. This piece of literature delves deeply into the topic of motivation and self-determination and covers both positive and negative aspects of the theories. The publication was written to explain the theory and does a superb job of helping the reader understand both the theories and the history. This work highly supports the research on motivation in the classroom because the authors discuss how helping children and adults alike to become internally motivated will help them to do things on their own instead of for an external reason.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Edwin Locke & Gary Latham, combine their efforts, expertise, and over twenty-five years of research to give a comprehensive presentation of the theory, applications, and extensions of goal setting and task performance. This is a diligent attempt to produce an accurate account of all research done in the field of this key component of motivation theory, and is evident by its thoroughness in the explanation of the theory. There is also a substantial effort placed on the applications of this theory. The authors provide research that establishes links between goal setting, self regulation, and job satisfaction. The only limitation of this work is that it primarily focuses on the business world and motivation in the work place. Even though this work is geared toward a business setting (due to the precision of the research and presentation of the theory) it is an essential work in the area of motivation and specifically to that of goal setting.

Markus, H.R., Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation. Psychological Review, 98 (8), 224-253.

Kitayama and Markus, two distinctly different college professors, offer the suggestion that different cultures offer a different means of the way we construe ourselves, others, and our interdependence. Such cultural conceptions can alter the individual perceptions of emotions, cognition, and motivation. They explain that a generality of where motivation comes fails to cross amongst various cultures. The ways in which humans are motivated are primarily based upon the various beliefs that cultures impart within us of what exactly we should be doing with our lives. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, and geographic location all have an influence of thoughts and feelings. Each factor plays a key role in the nature of self and identity as well as the function of self-esteem. Such considerations challenge us to assume that culture has a tremendous impact on the way we act, accomplish things, and afford a sense of freedom and choice.

Maslow, A.E. (1970). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row.

Abraham Maslow, often referred to as the father of humanistic psychology and contributor of the pyramid of hierarchal needs to the world of psychology, gives an in depth explanation of the core needs of human beings. In this second edition, he stresses an emphasis on the theory that people move toward self-actualization. This provides the basis for his extensively proven and wide-ranging study relating to ambition, affiliation, power and drive. It also seeks to offer an understanding of the characteristics that humans take on when needs fail to be met, and how such offering affect one’s personality and the perceptions that others may have of you. Overall motivation comes from one’s positive perspective of growth, success, and satisfaction and it seeks to disassociate itself away from frustration and stress.

Additional Resources

These are additional resources of self-efficacy:

Here is a funny cartoon about motivation.


APA Citation: Wang, S. (2001). Motivation: General overview of theories. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved <insert date>, from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/