Motivation Theories in College Students: “Grade-Oriented” vs. “Learning-Oriented”
Earlier academic researches within the leaning environment have conclusively determined that student motivation within schools has a dualistic approach; grade-oriented and learning-oriented approaches. The former attributes learning impetus to knowledge enhancement and personal proficiency while the latter is driven by the need to demonstrate of one’s proficiency to other people (Walvoord, & Anderson, 2009). Undisputedly, the learning environment has been characterized by the grade-oriented approach that has instilled a culture where students have focused on the marks that they score in their various units as opposed to whether any form of learning has been achieved. The highest contributor to this form of perception in students is the fact that grades have been adopted across learning institutions as intelligence assessors where generally, students scoring A’s in their exams are regarded as clever while those scoring F’s are considered unintelligent people (Walvoord, & Anderson, 2009). Consequently, no student wants to be branded as a failure or unintelligent person and they would therefore focus on grade enhancement in a bid to be viewed as intelligent students.
Teachers and parents have contributed significantly to this approach by the fact that they employ the same perception in the appraisal of student performance. For instance, a student may have put in a considerable amount of efforts in form of extra tuitions and personal study for a given unit only for them to attain an average score. Instinctively, parents will be concerned that their child has failed the exam and thus the blame may shift to the tutor as being ineffectual in teaching practice. Grade-oriented students have an impetus towards accomplishing things the exact way that is mostly in conservative approaches; they use pragmatic approaches to studying like cramming learning material; inflexible to new learning approaches; worried about the course content since the larger the content the harder it becomes for them to absorb the whole information; and lastly they have a low amount of internal motivation. On the contrary, learning-oriented students are a high sense of internal motivation that defines the path that their studies take. Their flexible learning approaches impart in them an element of conceptual thinking that creates an interest towards innovative and logical ideas. Additionally, such students employ their individual instincts in decision-making as they tend to apply what they have learned in creating solutions people (Walvoord, & Anderson, 2009).
Using the earlier given example, such a student will not get frustrated by realizing an average score in their exams since the extra efforts employed in the unit acts as an avenue for further learning and understanding capability. Focusing on grades inhibits the learning process as students tend to acquire a defeatism attitude that acts as a constraint to further learning. The anxiety hinged on the need to acquire good grades is a source of psychological issues and pressure that constraints any form of learning from being realized (Campbell, 2007). Additionally, grade obsession has left many students feeling as failures and actually overlooking the fact that the fundamental aspect of schooling is learning. Griggs (2001) asserts the difference in the orientations emanates from the point of view that “students with marginal academic skills are compelled to be highly grade oriented because they are under greater evaluative pressures than their more academically talented peers” (pp. 122). As a college tutor, it is to identify the motivating factor behind students learning. This is because the learning process is used to both equip students for the realization of personal growth in terms of knowledge base and the workforce. If no form of learning takes place, then the efforts accorded to the earning process are obsolete.
Determining the nature of motivation in the students would aid in curbing the detrimental effect of the grading approach on student performance and health. Assessing students against the given characteristics would help define their motivations. Tests like the LOGO (learner oriented goal oriented) motivation profile can also be used to determine what motivates students. With this, the teacher would be able to help goal-oriented students to shift their focus to actual learning. Parents and teachers should be aware of the detrimental effects of the goal-oriented approach and divert their attention towards encouraging students into leaner-oriented approaches. This would definitely reverse the effects of goal-oriented cultures within the learning institutions.
Campbell, M. M. (2007). Motivational Systems Theory and the Academic Performance of College Students. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 4(7), 11-24.
Griggs, R. A. (2001). Handbook for Teaching Introductory Psychology: With an Emphasis on Assessment. Hamden, CT: Routledge.
Walvoord, B. E., & Anderson, V. J. (2009). Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons.