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This video gives an overview on the theories that explain how students may be motivated to learn and succeed at school. The overview also includes intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, behavioral, humanistic, cognitive and sociocognitive approaches to motivation.


Human Motivation 1: Theories of Motivation and Affect

Processes that direct and sustain individuals’ (e.g. students) behavior toward something (e.g. learning)


Types of Motivation

1) Intrinsic motivation

  • Process to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding

2) Extrinsic motivation

  • Process to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is extrinsically rewarding
  • Occurs when one is motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment.

Motivation Theories

Behavioral theory

  • Interest theory
  • Goal theory
  • Self-determination theory
  • Cognitive evaluation theory

Cognitive theories

Sociocognitive theories

Humanistic theories

  • Expectancy theory
  • Attribution theory
  • Self-efficacy theory

  • Maslow 's hierarchy of needs
  • Roger 's unconditional positive regards

1 Behavioral Theory

  • Reinforcements and punishments are motivators
  • School incentives can be in a form of:

01 Behavioral theory

  • Informational rewards
    • Rewards to inform performance
    • E.g.: Good job! You have done an excellent piece of work!
  • Controlling rewards
    • Could be in terms of privileges
    • Rewards to control behavior
    • E.g.: If you finish the ten questions correctly in 10 minutes, you will get RM1.

a) Rewards

b) Praise/Criticism

  • Praise could be interpreted as low ability cue
  • Criticism could be interpreted as a high ability cue

  • Performance feedback
    • E.g.: You have done a good job better than Marlina.
    • E.g.: You have improved a lot since the first quiz!
  • Informational feedback
    • E.g.: You have done a good job answering this question. You wrote stages involved ……..

School incentives also can be in a form of:

c) Feedback

d) Social recognition (Pengiktirafan sosial)

  • E.g.: Getting a Dean’s list award etc.

e) Obligation removal (negative reinforcers)

  • E.g.: Getting an exemption of performing certain tasks in the future if perform a former task better

  • It does not promote intrinsic motivation
    • Depend on external causes to motivate behaviour
  • Develops materialistic attitudes
    • Tangible rewards are attractive
  • It does not consider expectations and beliefs
    • More on immediate satisfaction

Limits of behavioral theory

2 Cognitive Theories

  • There are three general perspectives on interest
  • 1) Dispositional interest (individual)
    • E.g. Interested in plants, thus likes to read books about types of plants etc.
  • 2) Situational interest (activated by environment)
    • E.g. A visit to botanic garden trigger interest in flowers
  • 3) Psychosocial state of the individual
    • Combination of
      • Actualised individual interest
      • Situational interest

02 Cognitive theories

a) Interest theory (Krapp, Hidi, & Renninger, 1992)

  • Goal setting is essentially linked to task performance.
    • It states that specific and challenging goals along with appropriate feedback contribute to higher and better task performance.

02 Cognitive theories

b) Goal theory (Loake & Latham, 1990)

Types of Goals

Mastery goal

Performance goal

Social goal

Performance-avoidance goal

People are active organisms, with evolved tendencies toward growing, mastering ambient challenges, and integrating new experiences into a coherent sense of self

02 Cognitive theories

c) Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985)

Three psychological needs:

  • Competence
  • Control/autonomy (similar to locus of control)
  • Relatedness (similar to need for belonging)

Events that happen to individuals such as students might affect motivation through their perception of the events itself as either controlling behavior or providing information

02 Cognitive theories

d) Cognitive evaluation theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985)

E.g.: Getting a praise (an event) from a teacher could be perceived as controlling or providing information

Controlling behavior: Good job! You have done well because you follow my instructions

Providing information: Good job! Your understanding of the topic has improved a lot. You understand how certain information is interconnected with another

3 Sociocognitive Theories

Attitudes are developed and modified based on assessments about beliefs and values.

a) Expectancy X value (Wigfield & Eccles, 2002)

  • Students' achievement and achievement related choices are most proximally determined by two factors
    • expectancies for success
    • subjective task values

  • Values:
    • Intrinsic interest
    • Importance
    • Utility (engagement in a task based on task value)
    • Cost (time etc.)

b) Attribution theory (Fiske, & Taylor, 1991)

It examines what information is gathered and how it is combined to form a causal judgment

  • How the social perceiver uses information to arrive at causal explanations for events.
  • How and why people explain events as they do

  • Three aspects of attribution:
    • Locus of control [internal or external]
    • Stability [consistency/regularity of occurrence]
    • Controllability [within or beyond control]

Self-efficacy is a personal judgment of "how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations"

c) Self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977)

  • Factors that influence self-efficacy:
    • History of success
      • Mastery experience
    • Positive modeling
      • Social role model (vicarious experience)
    • Social persuasion (verbal or/and action)
    • Emotional and physiological state
    • Visualisation (imaginal experience)

4 Humanistic Theories

a) Hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1943)








Self-actualisationThe need to realise one's full potential as a human being

Asthetic AppreciationThe need to appreciate order and beauty

Intellectual AchievementThe need to appreciate order and beauty

Self-esteemThe need to feel good about ourselves

BelongingThe need to receive affection and attention from others

SafetyThe need to be protected from physical and emotional threat

Biological (Survival)The need to appreciate order and beauty

Limitations of Maslow’s theory

  • It lacks of rigorous scientific methods
  • Maslow’s basic assumptions have been criticized
  • It lacks of research evidence to support the theory
  • It does not explain some phenomena, e.g., ‘starving artist’
  • There is little evidence for the rigid stage hierarchy
  • Some needs are not accounted for, e.g., power and control

b) Unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1959)

  • Each individual needs for unconditional positive regard for growth
    • Unconditional positive regard is an acceptance and support of a person regardless what he/she says or does
  • Basic human needs are necessary for self-actualization

How does it work?

  • Each individual needs positive regard
  • But if others impose conditions of worth, it will lead to conditional positive regard
  • When there is too much of conditions of worth, it leads to lose of desires, lack of self-direction and difficulty to move toward self-actualization

How does it work?

  • Each individual needs positive regard
  • But if others provide unconditional positive regard, individual develops positive self-regard

Limitations of Roger’s theory

  • Students are human beings
    • Many needs are non-academic
  • It does not assume that deficiency needs have been met
  • The proposition separates behavior from worth
  • It is challenging for teachers in helping students to reach their potentials
    • Diversity among students affects their needs


  • Santrock, J. W. (2017) Educational Psychology (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
  • Woolfolk, A. E. (2016). Educational Psychology (13th ed.). Boston: Pearson
  • O’Donnell, A. M., Reeve, J. & Smith, J. K. (2012) Educational Psychology: Reflection for action. (3rd ed.). New Jersey: Wiley
  • Moreno, R. (2010). Educational Psychology. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Thank you!

Dr Hadijah JaffriSchool of EducationFaculty of Social Sciences and Humanities