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From theory to practice

Thinking has been marked for a long time by the tension between the view of motivation as development from within and the opposing idea that it is arises from without.

There is a growing consensus that we can't make others motivated directly but we can motivate obliquely by setting up the conditions that nurture motivation. It is possible to force people to put more effort into a task better but authentic motivation can't be imposed. 

The most powerful motivation is self-motivation that comes from within. Motivation is a door that is unlocked from the inside. The most effective way to motivate is from the inside by using peoples' positive states to draw them into the activity. However, we can have a large role in influencing how others motivate themselves by creating conditions that maximise their assets and help shape how they think about ability, how they approach learning new skills, how they make sense of their progress and how competent they feel.

Those who are motivating create a context that maximise the chances of others developing interests. They also remove the conditions that act as barriers and constraints. The task is not to motivate to achieve but to provide the opportunities for achievement that will be motivating. 

To be motivated we need to both value and care about what we are doing and expect to be able to do well at it. Peoples' perceptions of their own ability and skills can vary, depending on the type of task they are working on and so motivation will vary from setting to setting.  In exploring motivation it is important to consider the views people have of the nature of their ability, their achievement goals and their level of confidence in their ability.  Motivation is consistent over time and context only so long as these variables hold constant. So this leads to the important conclusion, that is often overlooked in everyday life, that motivation is not solely a feature of the individual but a function of how the individual interacts with the environment.

Copyright: Alan McLean, 2006

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