Learning about changes in motivation theories can give you a richer understanding of your students.
Motivation theory has evolved over time as limitations of each new theory have become salient, and new theories are proposed to improve upon the old ones. Since each theory makes sense on its own, it is illuminating to understand their shortcomings, especially since it may feel intuitive to apply these to your students without realizing these limitations.
Behavioral models held that behaviors were reinforced positively through rewards and negatively through punishment, which helps explain how to extrinsically motivate people or animals. For example, rewards such as prizes may motivate students to study while punishments such as losing privileges may also motivate students to study.
—> What’s missing? Cognition.
Cognitive models argue that reinforcement is mediated through cognition (expectations, beliefs, prior knowledge and current experience). While rewards and punishments affect students, they have differing effects given our differing minds. For example, a student who believes they need to be the best in a class may view a B on an exam as a punishment, while another may be very happy with this grade and see it as a reward.
—> What’s missing? Needs.
The needs model argues that in order to be motivated or even able to focus on higher order needs, more foundational needs must be met. The most famous example of the needs model is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For example, a student who hasn’t eaten in several days (physiological) will have a hard time thinking about being a good student (esteem) or realizing their potential in a class (self-actualization).
—> What’s missing? Goals.
According to the goals model, you have to have something that you care about, a goal, to be motivated to do something. Students do not just do things because they are thinking and have full stomachs.
There are two different types of goals.
—> What’s missing? Expecting to succeed and caring about the task.
According to the expectancy-value model, our motivation is affected by two primary components of goals.