Thursday, July 29, 2010

Social Cognitive Theory & Goal Theory

I've grouped Social Cognitive theory and Goal theory into the same post because I think that they separately tackle the two variables discussed in the Expectancy Value theory.

The Social Cognitive theory focuses in on expectancy: a key component to motivation is whether or not a learner believes he or she is capable of carrying out the task at hand. This crucial component of a person's confidence in his or her own ability is known as self-efficacy.
While the Social Cognitive theory focuses on the "prerequisite"aspect of self-efficacy (in this instance, the "pre-" refers to "pre-task"), the Goal theory, on the other hand, focuses on how the outcome promised by a certain task affects motivation.
Here I think there's a more obvious correlation between mastery goals vs. performance goals and intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation (respectively) than was the case with the expectancy value theory. 

But even in this case, I second guess myself and hesitate from drawing any permanent lines matching the two similar distinctions. 

While mastery goals seem pretty irrefutably intrinsic to me, I'm less definitive when it comes to deeming performance goals as extrinsically motivated. It's certainly my first impression, but after giving the "extrinsic" assessment a little more thought, I think someone could also make a case that a "desire to be seen as competent by others" could be an intrinsically motivated desire. Even though the "competent" judgement is determined by someone other than the learner, the learner has intrinsically chosen to place value in his or her peers' approval. (What do you think? Too much of a stretch?)

Both these theories, as well as the expectancy value theory, underscore that learners need to feel confident in their abilities in order to take on a task, and they need to be motivated (either intrinsically or extrinsically--though less flexible interpretations might argue for the former over the latter) by some incentive provided by performing and/or completing the task. Learners need to understand why it's important to learn what they're learning, and motivation will be that much stronger if they are intrinsically driven to do so.

Add on:
Where does praise factor into this discussion? Alfie Kohn would clearly argue that it discourages development of intrinsic motivation, as children become "praise junkies," just working towards their next token of spoken extrinsic validation.

After reading his article, Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!", I definitely think Kohn makes an important point, but even with what little experience I have, I can attest that "Good Job!" is a hard habit to break.

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