Monday, October 18, 2010

Achievement Motivation

Two best friends, Kate and Robin have just entered their freshman year of high school together.  They do everything together except when it comes to physical activity.  They don’t seem to see physical education class eye to eye and Kate appears to work a lot harder at it than Robin.  Their physical education teacher needs a little advice when it comes to motivating these two in different ways.  In order to do this, I need to create an achievement motivation profile for each girl so we can layout the different aspects and make note of key points within each profile. 
An individuals’ choice, persistence, and performance can be explained by how well they think they will do on an activity and what they will do in order to achieve success (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). Achievement behavior explanations stem from the work of Atkinson (1964, 1974).  Atkinson’s theory of achievement motivation defines the multiple factors that play into the role of achievement behavior including personality and situational (Gill & Williams, 2008).
                According to Atkinson’s theory, there are two personality constructs that factor into achievement motivation.  They are the motivation to be successful and the motivation to avoid failure.  When applying this theory to Kate and Robin, it is clear to see that Kate is a high achiever whereas Robin is a low achiever.  Kate enjoys challenging activities and does them without worrying about the possibility of failure, while Robin worries constantly about failure and completely avoids achievement situations, whether or not she is capable of performing well. 
                Atkinson’s theory also incorporates situational factors that affect achievement motivation.  These two factors are task difficulty, or in other words the probability of success, and the incentive value of success.  We can relate this to Kate and Robin’s personal experiences.  Robin, being more capable of performing physical activity when compared to Kate, does not seem to enjoy the experience and chooses not to play up to her capabilities.  Instead of doing her best, she expects to fail and in doing so she chooses to do only simple tasks or impossible ones.  On the other hand, Kate is not as athletic when compared to her peers, but is one that enjoys physical activity, is eager to participate, and chooses challenging tasks to try out. 
                Looking at these two best friends with completely different motivational concepts, it may be that Robin just doesn’t believe she has the ability to perform certain tasks and wishes to not be embarrassed by failure.  She doesn’t seem to realize her capabilities.  As advice for her physical education teacher, I would utilize the TARGET principles in order to create a mastery climate.  In order to encourage Robin’s participation, she needs to be motivated by being rewarded for her effort, learning, and improvement.  Her teacher needs to design challenging and diverse tasks, provide leadership opportunities, recognize improvement, provide group learning opportunities, evaluate task mastery and individual improvement, as well as provide enough time to learn (Gill & Williams, 2008).  This type of mastery climate is going to allow her teacher to stress individual challenge, short-term goals, and improvement.  Robin is going to be able to work at her own pace and will be able to see for herself her capabilities during her participation in physical activity.  This type of environment will also be good for Kate, whereas she will be able to feel successful, when in most cases she is not when compared to her other peers in the class, and she can develop adaptive motivational patterns. 
                Though Kate and Robin have two completely diverse individual differences when it comes to their personal achievement motivation, it seems that their teacher will be able to incorporate a mastery climate by using the TARGET principles and it will help them both to enhance their adaptive motivational profiles.  Robin being a low achiever will be able to grasp her capabilities while learning in this type of environment, and being encouraged to do so will only allow her to develop higher motivational skills.  Kate already being a high achiever, will be able to work individually on her more difficult skills and will soon be able to achieve higher skills while being able to see her own individual areas that seek improvement. 
Gill, D., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise. pp. 117-128. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Wigfield, Allan, & Eccles, J.S. (2000). Expectany-value theory of achievement motivation. Contempory Educational Psychology, 25, 68-81. Retrieved from doi: 10.1006/ceps.1999.1015

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