Through the study of Psychology we find that the concepts of motivation and learning become a crucial part of our development and growth. A continual cycle of need and fulfillment, it is that which compels us, as individuals, to seek out goals and the means by which we achieve those goals. Motivation and learning does not end in the abstract but accompanies us throughout the complexities of real life experiences. In settings like that of the classroom or workplace we may be exposed to an array of new opportunities.
To further our need for growth we may explore the resources of undertaking a second language or learn the latest product information in order to market a new wireless communication service plan. Does this mean we will automatically accept such ventures merely because they exist or do we remain solely within the boundaries of satisfying our needs? Throughout the following we will examine those experiences and discuss various theories as they relate to the concepts of motivation, learning and the connection thereof.
Motivation is by all means an awakening of our individual needs and desires. Though its concept may be construed as vague, it is our needs that drive us to act and react through both internal and external stimuli. Food, money, status and love can be determining factors in human motivation. As such, ones motivation is relatively a manifestation of our experience and environment. (“Managerial Psychology”, 1989, pp. 22-35)
Clinician A.H. Maslow (1954) believed such needs should be classified in terms of a hierarchy system defining different levels of needs. As each need evolves and satisfaction is obtained a higher need will inevitably develop. Suffice to say, the concept of motivation must first occur before action or direction can be achieved. By applying theory to real world instances, we can more readily understand the guiding forces that stir our motivations.
We begin by examining the need and drives of individuals within a classroom setting. What as students incites us to seek higher learning of that which was previously unknown? Take for example, a student who undertakes second language learning. Though at times such coursework may be required, more often than none it is the student who initiates the process and at the very least retains control over which language they choose to learn.
The need can be induced by nothing more than the need to fulfill ones own goals and potential. Maslow’s (1954) Self-Actualization Theory details how an individuals unique potential entices them to further develop their own capabilities. (Buck, 1988, pp. 32-34) A student may seek the knowledge gained by second language learning simply because the mastery of their primary language has been so great that they are confident in their abilities to achieve a far more superior challenge.
The need for belonging may also play a key role in our motivations to set goals of second language learning. Maslow (1954) concluded the absence of friends or family can guide how strongly our need for group placement overtakes our actions. This type of motivation can become the single most important part of our life. (“Managerial Psychology”, 1989, p. 27)
Individuals who find themselves, for whatever reason, residing in foreign locations may often incur problems with communication and development of new friendships because they are unfamiliar with the existing language. For this reason, many who immigrate, work diligently to comprehend the language as determined by the inhabitants of their new geographic location and the need to fit within that group.
Just as we find within the classroom, the workplace can also delegate various stimuli that prod our motivations. Let us say that our employer offers us the opportunity to learn essential features of a new wireless communication service plan. What influences our decision to accept the offer? One theory states that motivation may arise out of the need for fulfillment of self-esteem issues.
In other words, we desire attributes that lead to self-respect, respect of others, status, achievement, reputation and appreciation. Discouraging this type of need, could lead an individual to experience feelings of inferiority and weakness. (“Managerial Psychology”, 1989, p. 27) We may accept the opportunity set forth mainly as a means to gain recognition from our employer and co-workers. In turn, such recognition may increase our chances at a higher status as viewed within the company.
On the other hand, achievement alone can serve to propel us towards new endeavors. According to McClelland’s (1988) Theory of Achievement Motivation, individuals with this type of need often overload themselves with difficult challenges yet their goals are obtainable. These challenges are usually underscored by the need for feedback and assessment of their performance. A prime example may be those individuals we stereotype as a “workaholics.” These individuals may be seen as the “movers and shakers” within their respective fields. They are by all means, the employees who are known and relied upon to complete the tasks at hand and who are driven solely by their need for accomplishment.
Once we have been stimulated by motivations the need must then be fulfilled. The act of learning is inherent to us from the moment of birth provoking change that can be temporary or long term. Through learning we seek to absorb the necessary knowledge that allows us to reach the desired result. Learning may take on a wide range of forms and can be influenced by several factors including, but not limited to, social class, environment and of course motivation. (Howe, 1984, pp. 7-10)
While the process of learning may differ between classroom and workplace, the act itself remains constant. If we examine are previous examples of second language learning and the sale of wireless communication service plans, we can theorize as to which process may be best suited to each venture.
Second language learning as with the majority of school learning requires the systematic approach of beginning first with basic comprehension and gradually increasing each subsequent level until the final objective is achieved. As with motivation, we may associate a hierarchical process of learning with that of a classroom setting.
The hierarchical aspects of learning set forth by Gagne (1970) are based on the idea that previous knowledge and experience influences future learning. Thus, the learner must first acquire lesser skills before developing advanced capabilities. (Howe, 1984, p. 11) To simplify this theory, we can say a student though unfamiliar with the language at hand has already achieved the ability to understand concepts of phonetics, grammatical rule and sentence structure. By furthering those concepts and advancing skill, the motivated student will eventually achieve fluency.
Another theory suggests that there are three separate modes of learning known as Accretion, Structuring and Tuning. (Rumelhart & Norman, 1978) Similar to aspects of hierarchy, Accretion combines new knowledge with previous experience. Structuring allows new concepts to formulate, while Tuning thrives within a practical setting. It is also noteworthy to mention that of all three modes, Tuning has the slowest turn around. This most certainly is due generous amount of time needed to practice and hone learned skills.
In more basic terms these modes can be viewed in the context of a generated mental cycle of acquisition, formulation and application. As students we are taught from an early age that it is only by study and rote application of the knowledge that we will ultimately achieve success. This is especially true in the sense of academics and the concept of second language learning.
In the workplace, the process of learning may vary somewhat from that of the classroom. However different, the processes are undoubtedly relative to one another. One theory we may equate with the workplace is the Experiential Learning Theory formulated by Rogers. (1996) Rogers theorized that through this classification of learning, the needs are addressed by gaining applied knowledge as opposed to academic knowledge and that such learning was synonymous with change and growth.
This process of learning would include such qualities as personal involvement, self-initiation and pervasive effects to the learner. We may choose to learn the product detail and how to sell a new wireless communication service plan simply because it is an area of great personal interest. We may engage employment prospects solely for the benefit of fulfilling the need and yet we are further rewarding by putting into action all that we have learned. Through employment not only do we obtain the skills necessary to achieve this goal, we are then able to put those skills into action. Growth in this situation could be immense.
A second theory that lends itself to the workplace is the Functional Context approach to learning. (Sticht, 1988) This theory bases itself primarily on the idea that previous knowledge facilitates new knowledge through association while emphasizing real life problem-solving and learning strategies. Content of the instruction is delivered in such a way that it will be meaningful to the learner.
Additionally, educational materials for this type of learning are generally designed for the learners’ reference once training has been completed. Employment training classes are a good example of this theory. Much like in Experiential Learning, we are given both the knowledge to succeed and the avenue in which to apply that knowledge.
If we take for instance, an individual who has been employed by the same wireless communications company for some time and that individual suddenly decides to change his/her position from administration to sales, it is safe to say they will in be required to attend additional training sessions. Since the individual in all likelihood has already gained a considerable amount of knowledge pertaining to new company products and wireless communication plans, they will be able to associate their previous experience with the new concepts being instilled.
In conclusion, while we may regard motivation and learning as two separate entities, their effects when combined cannot be diminished. As humans we are bombarded by stimuli that urge us to seek fulfillment of our awakened needs. Such needs make it possible us to determine our future goals and avoid stagnation. Motivation and learning, for all intent and purpose, allows us to achieve those goals and to further our growth in both personal and professional terms.
Boje, D.M. & Leavitt, H.J. & Pondy, L.R. (Eds.). (1989). Motivation: The Driving Force. In Readings in Managerial Psychology (4th Ed.) (pp. 20-35). Chicago: Chicago Press, LTD.
Buck, R. (1988). Maslows Hierarchy of Motives. In Human Motivation and Emotion (2nd Ed.) (pp. 32-34). New York: John Wiley & Sons
Howe, M.J.A. (1984). Learning Takes Many Forms. In A Teachers Guide to the Psychology of Learning (pp. 7-10). Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Inc.
McClelland, D. (1988) Human Relations Contributors. Retrieved on November 17, 2006, from