In reviewing the Nine Central Topics of Educational Psychology, the topic under review is - Motivation. “Why do students engage or not engage in certain activities/tasks? How can teachers use student interest to facilitate learning? How can students self -regulate their learning and behavior?” (Edmunds & Edmunds, 2010, p.11)
This topic is of particular interest to me as it relates to the instruction of adult learners. I am currently facilitating employment preparatory courses to adult students and am observing differentiated learners with a very wide range of motivation. The course outcomes are to prepare them for careers, however many have not indicated what, in fact, if any, their career goals are.
My initial question was: Does motivation precede learning or do you even need motivation to learn and, also, do you need a goal, to be motivated to learn? The question started out quite broad and as I continued course readings the first part was answered in the explanation of the Yerkes- Dodson law that describes the relationship between motivation and performance based on the motivation theory that a certain amount of motivation must exist in order for any amount of learning to occur. (Edmunds & Edmunds, 2010, p.55) The focus of the research question then narrowed to: “Do you need a goal to be motivated to learn?”
As an instructor, I have personal opinions, but in order to provide an answer to the research question there needs to be a methodology that is systematic, objective and testable (Edmunds & Edmunds, 2010, p.14) How do I find an answer that is objective, with absence of intuition and conjecture? In an androgogical context, the students are coming to the learning opportunity voluntarily, and normally that would indicate self-motivation, however, in the absence of goals, how motivated are they? It would seem that in some cases there may be goals but they are not related to the content of the learning. There may be an extrinsic reason to learn course material in order to remain in school, have a room in residence, and have a modest income and provision of meals. Having identified a problem and formulating an informal hypothesis with the problem, what research method would be the best match for the question being asked?
Educational psychology uses both qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research involves the human factor and contains the methods of both idiographic and ethnographic research. (Edmunds & Edmunds, 2010, p.16) Idiographic research could be used in this case when examining the situation of specific individuals who have no clear goals or career aspirations and are enrolled in a course for employment preparation.
Ethnographic research could also be used to determine if there are any cultural influences that would affect the lack of stating a career goal. You could ask, “What’s wrong with no goals?” Perhaps it is only certain societies that are goal focused. I heard a...