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.
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, so I made ready my paper and pen, and waited until he arrived only minutes after I sat down. I am just about to ask 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? Why do you think you received that score?
Well, it was fine. Not very good but not very bad either. It was a little over the line I guess. 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 I wasn’t because I was thinking of something else. I was 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 have 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 lack of 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, 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 needed right now. I mean… I need money now, and studying doesn’t give me any financial credit now. I want educational success of course, but after I got 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 in which a person believes he or she has control over the whole situation. In the case of John, it appears from his answers that he does know 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).
When it comes to the ‘source’ of personal control, however, it is very evident that it is under the internal circumstances. He was not motivated because he sees no gains in studying, especially when it comes to finance. His source of being demotivated does not come from an external source, such as the environment. Of course, the environment has influenced the way he thinks of things and events, such as when his dad went away: “[E]ver 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). Yet, what directly influenced his being demotivated was the way he took the challenges, which made him lose interest in studying history. The problem is internal because he allowed external forces to affect him and the way he thinks about studying. There are signs that he is living a stressful life.
Stability. John’s case is ‘unstable’ because, in other subjects—those that he usually enjoys more—he gets higher scores during the exams. He does not understand why he gets lower grades in history: “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 may have been caused by stress and strain in trying to come up with what he needs: “Nope I wasn’t (motivated) because I was thinking of something else. I was 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 have somewhere to go after that” (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008). He was also agitated: “I couldn’t focus on a single thing and I was always hurrying and scurrying” (John, personal communication, May 9, 2008). For this, it is evident that John can be a person who has no goals, who expect that he is about to fail, and who is negative when it comes to the scores of his history exam. He is a failure-accepting student when it comes to his history class; but a mastery-oriented student when it comes to courses that he loves and enjoys most, such as arts and literature. With the uprising challenges, the problem in the degree in which John engages in activities is only attached to courses that he doesn’t enjoy much. Yet, because the case is unstable, then it can be improved by using strategies.
Controllability. From John’s answers, it is clear that he has the ability to control the matter ‘if’ he wanted to. The problem, however, is that he feels that he does not want to control it: “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). John is a trait-dependent student, so that the regulatory focus should be by means of promotion, especially because his other courses reflect scores that are above the average. He should only learn to enjoy his history class; and one way to motivate him is by promoting him to a standing that is almost similar to that of literature, for example. This can be achieved through interactivity, with other students that have problems in the same course, which is history. He should, however, choose to engage in the activity, since liberty costs much to him. What is important is that the case of John is controllable, and activities can be implemented to improve his attitude.
Principles & Strategies
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). 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 demotivated, failure-accepting student. What is important, however, is that the process of interactivity, as emphasized by Rose (1999), contains these characteristics: (1) learner controlled, (2) active and exploratory, (3) involves Hypermedia, (4) constructive or metaflexible, and (5) student as a participant.
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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