Amy Migliore Motivation to Learn Paper Ed 510, Fall semester „08 Applying Cognitive Motivational theories in a high school art class To increase the chances of nurturing self-determined students, a culture of achievement can becreated in the visual arts classroom. Autonomous and competent students are developed through this typeof environment and the influence of cognitive motivational theories. Teachers who intentionallyimplement these research-based ideas reap the benefits of students who take ownership in their work andlink their success to effort and persistence. The powerful potential for this can be found in the maincognitive principles of motivation (Eggen & Kauchak,2007): Expectancy x Value theory, Self-efficacytheory, Goal theory, Attribution theory and Self-determination theory. In a hands-on, visual arts classroom, one would expect that students come with a high intrinsicvalue placed on the curriculum, and even though that is true for the most part, a number of students stilldo not expect that they can succeed at accomplishing a good piece of art. Expectancy times Value theory( Wigfield & Eccles, 1992, 2000) explains this phenomenon. It is a theory based on related studies whichsuggest that a student‟s schema, (Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 198:Wigfield, Eccles, 2000) a collectionof emotional memories, competency beliefs and interests times the value of a task is a strongdetermination of whether or not students will feel motivated to persist onto success. The task value isdetermined by four factors: intrinsic interest, importance, utility value and cost (Eccles et al., 1998). Theworth of task values is all related to the importance it holds for an individual. If someone is willinglyinclined to do something and if it has a universal intrigue to it (Hidi, 2001), it usually has high intrinsicvalue. Accomplishing a task that will validate personal beliefs or support one‟s priorities, means that thetask has importance (Wigfield & Eccles, 1992). Utility Value relates to the useful purpose something has
now or in the future (Wigfield & Eccles, 1992). Cost refers to the price one pays for being involved in atask. Both emotional (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002) and time costs are associated with this general category. Related to the prior, is the theory of Self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986, 1997,2004; Schunk, 2004),which is again rooted in personal beliefs. Self-efficacy is the belief about an individual‟s capability toachieve and is affected by the following four factors: past performance, modeling, verbal persuasion andpsychological state (Bandura, 1986). Helping students achieve from the very beginning is extremelyimportant because negative past performance will put up future roadblocks that can hinder a willingnessto continue trying, just as a past success will advance future accomplishments. Modeling (Bandura, 1986,1997; Kitsantas, Zimmerman, & Cleary, 2000) and verbal persuasion are common practices among manyeducators. Modeling helps to build prior knowledge and visually outline the steps to follow toward anoutcome; whereas positive and credible verbal affirmations encourage taking risks toward success. The former two theories collectively referred to inner beliefs as does this next motivationalstrategy, Goal theory (Thrash & Elliot, 2001), but this one also recommends a philosophical switch inhow to approach learning and what types of achievement targets are the most effective. Goal theoryespouses the idea that mastery of knowledge, a learning goal (Midgley, 2001; Pintrich, 2000), is a moreimportant ambition than performing just to complete a task. Students who are performance oriented willlikely fall into traps of avoidance of a goal (Dai, 2000) or over-emphasis on perceived ability. In contrast,learning goals focus on doing whatever it takes to grasp the concept regardless of a student‟s startingability. A students who sets a learning goal works with effort and persistence which ultimately gives thelearner more control than relying on the uncontrollable attribution of ability. Along the same lines of looking at what students use to blame or praise their failures andsuccesses on, comes Attribution theory. Some of the typical attributions for learning are ability and effortalong with ideas like luck and task difficulty or even the quality of a teacher (B.Weiner, 1992, 2001). Theoptimism related with this theory is that students can be re-trained ( Robertson, 2000) to see their
achievements as a result of effort rather than innate ability and that can give students back a sense ofcontrol rather than feeling limited by their perceived lack of ability (Marsh, 1990). The last motivational theory of Self-determination (Brophy, 2004; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002) isbest referenced in the common parenting quote about children needing “roots and wings, so they‟ll growup and do great things.” Self-determination is best achieved by walking the delicate line of guiding andencouraging, while giving challenges, choices and freedom. Believing in a student‟s capability to meetappropriate challenges and expressing that through verbal and emotional displays helps to createcompetence. As students build their competence they feel more empowered (Deci & Ryan, 2002) whichleads into autonomy (A. Black & Deci, 2000; Bruning et al., 2004), and they actively take charge of theirlearning process. While giving them these wings of freedom, students also need to know they aresupported and their quests for knowledge; the human interaction and coaching of a teacher helps fill auniversal need for relating and bonding to others (Furrer & Skinner, 2003; McCombs, 2001), and thisstrengthens a student‟s resolve. In the art classroom, my goal is to increase self-efficacy by guiding students to achieve visuallyappealing art works that they can display with pride—not only in the finished project, as a performanceobjective, but in the process as well—emphasizing learning goals. I aim to increase students‟ competenceand autonomy by helping them to set reasonable, individual goals which are focused on the mastery of aconcept. I try to build positive past practices right from the beginning of my course by leading studentsthrough a moderately challenging first project that has a high interest task value because of its visualaesthetics. As a class, we sequentially move through each requirement together, with allowabledifferentiations along the way, but students are not allowed to move onto a new project phase until theyhave proficiently accomplished the current task. This ensures that every step must be successfullymastered, and students learn that through effort and following a model, they can do what is expected ofthem and more.
There are always students in my class who place a high value on the task of creating art, but aresometimes hindered by their self-concept of seeing themselves as artists. One of the questions I ask onthe first day is if they consider themselves artists. Even in an elective class, most of the students say noand offer the explanation that they “can‟t draw”. This, again displays an attribution on ability rather thanon effort. Comparable research has been done on the creative development of children by researcherViktor Lowenfeld. In his theory, students in the age group of 12-14 years old are in a “Period ofDecision” about art, which means that, “Art at this stage of life is something to be done or left alone. Natural development will cease unless a conscious decision is made to improve drawing skills. Students are critically aware of the immaturity of their drawing and are easily discouraged. Lowenfelds solution is to enlarge their concept of adult art to include non-representational art and art occupations besides painting (architecture, interior design, handcrafts, etc.)” (Susan K. Donley, 1987). At this stage of development, if they don‟t think they can draw realistically, they are likely to give up onart all together, which is where the cognitive strategies can help re-train students‟ perspectives. Whatdoesn‟t help is that in our current education system, art electives have been dramatically cut fromprograms and students are not mandatorily taking as many art courses as they did in the past. So by thetime high school comes, some students have a high interest, but also have a domain specific (P. Smith &Fouad, 1999) anxiety about art because they haven‟t had many past opportunities to succeed. To increasetheir self-efficacy, I demonstrate each task as well as provide student and master samples which use theconcept of modeling to build their prior knowledge and specially show what the requirements looks like.I start by giving credible but frequent verbal affirmations based on effort and then slowly taper off theamount of praise as I see the students gaining skill abilities. As we progress through the course, I referback to these past successes but always challenge them to do more.
My course is a 45 day course that is designed to be a general elective for all students. I know thatmany students do not perceive themselves as artists unless they can draw, but my classes are very shortand include a variety of hands-on projects. Therefore, my goal is to re-train them to view an artist as acreative problem solver who uses visual materials, not solely someone who draws well. I systematicallywork at retraining them by starting everyone on a common level, by focusing on the rules and guidelinesfor creating visually sound designs. Students begin to see that if they apply these rules, then they too cancreate exciting pieces—just like the talented kids in the class! The elements and principles of designprovide a model of the artistic process and also break down the goal of a visually attractive end productinto specific and moderately challenging steps, which ties into goal theory. The already skilled studentsbecome more competent as they start to understand why, the things they do, work and how to get aroundcreative blocks in the future. I find that starting from these art basics actually creates a more autonomouslearner quickly and many students ask to alter his/her assignments to fit their growing knowledge andenthusiasm. Students are given the goal of visually proving they understand the concepts on sketch paper first,and then if they are approved by me in an individual conference, they can begin their final. This holdsthem accountable to put forth credible effort and helps to create competence because I am showing beliefthat they can achieve that step so they can move onto their final. What they don‟t understand at first, isthat the prep work is sometimes the hard part. Once they work through the planning and sketching goals,they get to enjoy the hands-on part of the project and that in itself is usually enough motivation to getthem through successfully. Their goals are specifically defined on a rubric, checklist or written on theboard, yet there is ample opportunity for them to make individual choices as long as they clear it with me.I closely monitor their progress so I can help them course correct along the way and I use the vocabularyfrom the principles of design to critique their work so that they can see the work is objective andcontrollable.
Often art seems to be perceived as an intuitive, unstable and subjective force, and although thatmay be true in some instances, it is also my responsibility to make visual design an achievable successthrough clear and objective vocabulary, rules and steps. However, even though I strive for no student tobe left behind, there are some who are so stuck by previous experiences or affective memories, that thesmall amount of time I have with them isn‟t enough to fully re-train them. For students who seem to bework-avoidant learners or ones with a tendency toward learned helplessness, I have found that settingtime goals works very well and focuses them back on the attribute of effort rather than on their emotions.I tell a student who is struggling in this area that if they can give me 10-15 minutes of concentrated effort,then they can take a 5-10 minute break. This is usually enough of an incentive to get them going again,especially if I move them away from their social table groups and offer the reward of moving back fortheir „break‟ time. In the visual arts course, determined attempts at increasing self-efficacy are made right from thestart by modeling, providing positive, attainable and challenging activities so students can immediatelygain successful performances off which to build. Current samples of excellent work are used to helpincrease the worth of the tasks. As I reviewed the cognitive theories on motivation, I felt a sense of hopeabout the ability of educators to plan for motivation instead of wait around for students to bring it.Although some may argue that motivation can‟t be taught, I would argue that it can be caught, and asprofessionals, armed with the cognitive studies, we can create the best possible culture and environmentin which students can catch it!
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Dear (Parent‟s name), I am so glad that your son/daughter has decided to join my Studio Art class this semester. In myexperiences, I have talked to many adults and students who are both excited and apprehensive to take anart class. I hope that as you continue to read about my class procedures, any fears will be put to rest. [Iam setting up an expectation for relatedness and also that the environment will be welcoming] My belief as an artist and teacher is that everyone has the ability to be creative. [Sharing my beliefis verbal persuasion to enhance self-efficacy] I understand that some of my students come with innatetalents in the visual arts and others simply enjoy the hands-on challenges and creative outlet that isprovided in an art course. Still others might feel anxious because of negative experiences in the past orcritical remarks they may have received. I am fully aware of this wide spectrum of feelings and skills as Idevelop my lessons for this general art elective. [I acknowledge the variety of attributions that mightpertain to art class] Because of this, I work very hard with each student to set them up for success bycarefully mapping out achievable steps and concise requirements as well as leaving room for them tomake choices. [I intend to show that effective goal setting will be used and autonomy promoted] Success is not a secret in my class, it is a partnership. My job as the teacher is to construct theenvironment and lessons so that maximum learning can occur. As a partner in this community, it is thestudent‟s minimum responsibility to put forth the degree of effort it takes to complete a task proficiently.[This is to establish the appropriate attribution of effort for my class] Ultimate success in grades will beachieved by putting forth one‟s ultimate efforts.Sincerely,