Motivation & Achievement Research Paper Starter

Motivation & Achievement

Student achievement in physical education can offer physical education teachers a challenge as their students are often at differing developmental levels and have different types and levels of motivation toward engaging in physical activity. This article discusses the national standards of achievement in physical education and theories of motivation that can be applied to the physical education teaching methods in order to increase motivation in students. Cognitive evaluation theory, self-determination theory, and achievement goal theory can be applied to physical education teaching methods in order to increase motivation in students. Instructors can also incorporate into their classes practical strategies for fostering foster the development of intrinsic motivation and perceived competence.

Keywords Achievement; Achievement Goal Theory; Amotivation; Cognitive Evaluation Theory; Ego/Performance-Orientation/Oriented/Involved; Extrinsic Motivation; Intrinsic Motivation; Involved; Motivation; Motivational Climate; Optimally Challenging Task; Perceived Competence; Physical Education; Relatedness; Self-Determination Theory; Task/Mastery-Orientation/Oriented/Involved


Physical education programs in American schools have declined over the past 15 years despite a growing focus and interest of Americans on physical activity and the positive health benefits that are associated with an active lifestyle (Alderman, Beighle & Pangrazi, 2006). In 1991, 42 percent of United States high schools maintained a required, daily physical education program. In 2003, the percentage of high school physical education programs was nearly half at 25 percent requiring physical education (Alderman, Beighle & Pangrazi, 2006). With the decrease in required physical education classes, schools often offer physical education as an elective course. However, research has indicated that not many students elect to include it in their high school curriculum (Alderman, Beighle & Pangrazi, 2006). Without the requirement of having to take a physical education class, students are missing out on positive experiences associated with physical activity that will contribute to the student being motivated to maintain a physically active lifestyle over a lifetime (Alderman, Beighle & Pangrazi, 2006).

The development of this motivation begins early in a child's physical education experience. Physical education teachers are vital to creating and providing the quality, positive and motivating environment students need to have positive physical activity experiences that contribute to achievement in physical education and a lifetime of physical activity (Alderman, Beighle & Pangrazi, 2006).

Motivation is a key component necessary for a student to be an active and engaged participant in physical education classes and invested in committing to a physically active lifestyle. Within the physical education context, motivation can be defined as why an individual participates in and persists at engaging in a particular activity or set of behaviors (Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2002). Motivation underlies achievement in physical education; students cannot achieve the goals of physical education programs unless they are motivated and engaged in the physical education curriculum. Achievement in physical education has been defined by the National Standards of Physical Education as set forth by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). These standards provide a set of guidelines for what physical education should focus on in order to achieve a learning environment in which students are developing skills to keep them physically active over a lifetime. These standards state that a physically educated person:

• Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.

• Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

• Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.

• Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

• Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.

• Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction (NASPE, 2007).

These standards of achievement and learning in physical education cannot be attained without physical education teachers purposefully emphasizing and incorporating motivational techniques and experiences that will foster motivation to engage in the physical education curriculum. Several theories of motivation in the achievement setting will be discussed, including self-determination theory and achievement goal theory. A review of these theories will be followed by strategies for physical education teachers to implement to enhance motivation and achievement in their students.


Self-Determination Theory

Self-determination theory proposes that an individual's motivational state falls along a continuum of motivation. This continuum ranges from:

• Amotivation

• Self-determined extrinsic motivation

• Other-determined extrinsic motivation

• Intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

Intrinsic motivation is the most desirable on the continuum, as it reflects the motivation of an individual to participate in an activity for the sake of participating. Research has indicated that individuals who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to adhere to a physically active lifestyle (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Also along the continuum of motivation are self-determined extrinsic motivation and other-determined extrinsic motivation. Other-determined extrinsic motivation is characterized by individuals who are motivated by external factors such as obligation to others, guilt, fear, and/or rewards, which have been shown to undermine motivation to engage in activities over an extended period of time. At the low end of the continuum is amotivation, which is defined as the lack of organized motivation to engage in an activity.

Self-determination theory suggests that if an individual does not believe that engaging in a particular activity will lead to the desired outcome, he or she will not partake. This may be due to poor self-image, lack of interest, time, or competence (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Individuals can move along the continuum of motivation that is proposed in self-determination theory indicating that motivation toward different activities can change.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

Cognitive evaluation theory is a sub-theory of self-determination theory that hypothesizes that intrinsic motivation to engage in an activity is experienced when the individual perceives a sense of control over the activity, feels a sense of relatedness to the activity, and has positive feelings about one self while participating in the activity. Intrinsically motivated individuals engage in behaviors or activities for the sake of participating in the activity itself (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Cognitive evaluation theory sets forth four propositions to explain and predict an individual's level of intrinsic motivation:

• Proposition I proposes that when an individual has a perceived sense of control over participating in an activity (autonomy) and sense of control over the achievement of personal goals (self-determined) he or she will be more intrinsically motivated.

• Proposition II asserts that when an individual experiences feelings of competence and has opportunities to engage in optimally challenging tasks enhances intrinsic motivation.

• Proposition III asserts that factors that are intrinsic or extrinsic (e.g., constructive feedback v. outcome contingent feedback or rewards) to a situation can impact intrinsic motivation along a continuum.

• Proposition IV suggests that individuals who are focused on self-improvement and learning will be more intrinsically motivated (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

Achievement Goal Theory

Achievement Goal Theory has been used as a framework for exploring motivation in the regular classroom since the 1980's (e.g., Ames & Archer, 1988; Nicholls, 1984, 1989) and since the 1990's in the physical education domain (e.g., Treasure, 1997) (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999; Todorovich & Model, 2005; Treasure & Roberts, 1995). This theory of motivation addresses the relationship between effort and ability in an achievement setting. Achievement Goal Theory purports that the relationship between effort and ability is specific to each individual and determines if the student...

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