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Book cover: Advances in Motivation and Achievement

Advances in Motivation and Achievement

ISSN: 0749-7423
Series editor(s): Stuart Karabenick and Timothy C. Urdan

Subject Area: Education

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Unfinished business: putting motivation theory to the “classroom test”

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Title:Unfinished business: putting motivation theory to the “classroom test”
Author(s):Julianne C. Turner
Volume:16 Editor(s): Timothy C. Urdan, Stuart A. Karabenick ISBN: 978-0-85724-253-2 eISBN: 978-0-85724-254-9
Citation:Julianne C. Turner (2010), Unfinished business: putting motivation theory to the “classroom test”, in Timothy C. Urdan, Stuart A. Karabenick (ed.) The Decade Ahead: Applications and Contexts of Motivation and Achievement (Advances in Motivation and Achievement, Volume 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.109-138
DOI:10.1108/S0749-7423(2010)000016B007 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item

Translating motivational research to classroom instruction may be so difficult because the two enterprises of psychological research and teaching are inherently different in goals and assumptions. Whereas psychological theory is meant to be broad and generalizable, educational practice must attend to individual and situational differences. For instance, a great deal of research suggests that mastery goal structures are related to desirable beliefs and behaviors. However, knowing that this is so does not help teachers know how to foster mastery goals in their classrooms and whether or how practices might vary given differences among students, developmental levels, and content areas. As Patrick (2004) noted, the theoretical notion of mastery goal structure as it is currently conceptualized was not developed in classrooms and does not address how a mastery goal structure is either manifested or communicated to students. Although it makes theoretical sense to provide “appropriate challenge” to students, how a teacher adapts that principle to students with a range of abilities and attitudes, from challenge seekers to avoiders, is not obvious. Research can provide only a general theoretical heuristic for understanding tendencies and does not necessarily explain individuals' behavior over time (Turner & Patrick, 2004). For motivational research to be meaningful and useful to educators, it needs to help them interpret student behavior as specific responses to specific sets of circumstances. Pajares (2007) expressed this well when he noted:Research findings … drawn from educational psychology broadly, and motivation theory and research in particular are bounded by a host of situated, cultural factors that must be attended to if the constructs themselves are to have any, as William James (1907/1975) termed it, practical, or cash, value. (p. 30)Therefore, in its present form, theory may not appear useful to teachers because of its seeming lack of specificity. These issues apply to all current theories of motivation.

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