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Motivational processes

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

The concept of motivation has had a chequered history in psychology and, as a result, has accrued many different meanings. Frequently the term motivation is used to refer to some kind of biological force or internal state, an internal state which directs behaviour and governs the degree of effort which the learner is willing to put into particular tasks. In this book we will use the term motivation to refer to the level of effort which a learner is observed to be putting into completing a particular task or activity without making any inferences about the learner’s inner state. This will enable us to measure motivation by measuring productivity, that is the work accomplished while completing particular tasks or while engaged in particular classes of activity.

Closely allied to the concept of motivation (in the productivity sense) is the concept of persistence. We will use the term persistence to refer to productivity over time. This is close to the dictionary definition of persistence as the tendency to continue working in the face of difficulties or obstacles.