John Atkinson, David McClelland, and their colleagues theorized that student motivation was unconsciously linked to early childhood experiences. For example, a child who was consistently punished for asking questions would have a low motivation to ask questions throughout the course of his or her lifetime. The problematic application of this theory lies in the underlying belief that individual need for achievement is limited and determined before the child enters the classroom.
A teacher who applies Atkinson's Theory of Motivation on a long term basis may be able to gain an accurate knowledge of their students' current need for achievement. However, further research has shown that intelligence and motivation are not deterministic traits. Therefore, teachers could very well neglect the potential growth of a child's mindset if they apply Atkinson and McClelland's theory without considering current research in the field.