Perception and Motivation in Goal Achievement

It may be challenging for students to find motivation to reach set goals. People may be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to succeed.  However, there are different theories about what motivates behavior.  Some people believe that reinforcement is necessary for people to truly feel motivated to change behaviors. Albert Bandura is a name often associated with discussions of motivation and learning.  Bandura is a Canadian psychologist responsible for social learning theory. Along with Skinner, Freud, and Piaget, Bandura is one of the most frequently cited psychologists. Bandura believed that reinforcement alone did not account for all learning or motivation.  He felt people could learn through observation, intrinsic reinforcement, and modeling the behaviors of others. Intrinsic reinforcement occurs when people receive an internal reward, such as pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment.

Part of wanting to achieve a goal is to have the expectancy of reward associated with that goal.  Self-efficacy is another important component that is developed as students feel confidence in performing well.  An article by Nacada.KSU.edu explained the factors associated with motivation include:  Intrinsic goal orientation, extrinsic goal orientation, task value, control of learning beliefs, test anxiety, and self-efficacy for learning and performance.  The authors noted, “The self-efficacy construct postulated by Bandura in his social learning theory has guided extensive motivational research.”

Students must not only be motivated to achieve the goal, but be able to make the goal measurable.  The mnemonic “SMART” is often referred to in goal-setting. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  In the article Set Specific Goals to Increase Success, the author suggests using the following formula in order to make goals measurable:  “I will (goal + performance measure) by (specific actions).” If a student wanted to receive an A as their goal, he or she would fill in the blanks with something like this:  I will receive an A in BUS101 by studying 2 hours a night Monday through Friday from 6-8 pm.”  Students often will state the goal without remembering to include the steps required to reach that goal.  By making the goal measurable, students can measure their progress toward attaining that goal.  This creates a roadmap to achieving the goal.

Reaching goals requires motivation. ZenHabits does a nice job of explaining motivation, as well as ways to achieve it and sustain it during times of struggle.  To find out more about motivation, check out the self-motivation quiz from Mindtools. After the quiz, there is a nice explanation of factors involved in self-motivation including:  self-confidence and efficacy, positive thinking, focus, and environment. The author from the article How Self-Motivated Are You noted, “Self-motivation doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And even those who are highly self-motivated need some extra help every now and then. Build your self-motivation by practicing goal-setting skills, and combining those with positive thinking, the creation of powerful visions of success, and the building of high levels of self-efficacy and self-confidence.”

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