Constructivist Views of Learning and Motivation

  1. Understand ‘Observational Learning’

    Observational learning is learning how to perform a behaviour or task and understanding what happens if we do/do not perform it (consequences) through watching others.

  2. Describe the key elements of observational learning and describe the three forms of reinforcement that can encourage observational learning.

    Key elements of observational learning are;
    a) ATTENTION; paying attention to learn and process information for learning|
    b) RETENTION; to remember what has been learnt from paying attention through the process of rehearsal
    c) REPRODUCTION; to conduct or practice the learnt task or behaviour that has been

    Three forms of reinforcement are;
    a) DIRECT; directly reinforced such as a “well done” from a teacher
    b) VICARIOUS; seeing other people recieve praise or delight when conducting a certain behaviour and so wanting to achieve the same
    c) SELF; the enjoyment of learning for self development and achieving personal goals

  3. Discuss ‘Factors that Influence Observational Learning’. How significant might this be in different types of school / home settings?

    Factors that influence observational learning are;
    a) ENVIRONMENTAL; instruction, other people, consequences, physical setting or resources
    b) PERSONAL FACTORS; beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, goals, efficiency, self-regulation, biology and emotions
    c) BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS; actions, choices, verbal statements, persistance and motivation

    The significance of these factors is that they all work together to create the outcome of a situation through context and understanding of this context. If a teacher believes a student with tattoos is going to be a ‘slacker’, then automatically the way they approach them and the use of verbal statements and instruction will differ due to this belief; in responce, the student may have high goals but due to this lack of resources create an attitude towards the learning environement and begin to believe they are not worthy, so what’s the point?

    By understanding how these factors affect learning and teaching in conjunction with each other, we are able to identify their significance in an educational setting.

    The interaction of personal characteristics, behaviour and environmental factors – all three factors are influenced by each other (Woolfolks & Margetts 2013)
  4. Review the section, ‘Observational Learning in Teaching’. In particular explore the concept of modelling.

    MODELLING; an individual who students can look up to and model their own behaviours around through adopting their physial styles, attitudes, beliefs etc.

    This can apply to classroom situations through the way a ‘popular student’ is reinforced for desired behaviour or punished (or perhaps un-punished) – students who observe the consequences of actions of this student will likely model themselves around what they see as they want to be like them to some degree unless it involves punishment.

    Teachers can also be models for appropriate behaviour or problem solving, or can invite guests to talk to students about a certain topic and therefore become models of influence for that subject.

    Models of a similar age to students will often be the most effective due to relatability.

  5. Summarise the key points relevant to ‘Enquiry Learning’. What is ‘Problem Based Learning? Explore the relationships between them. (p. 327)

    The key points of enquiry learning are;
    a) The teacher poses an idea or event for students to observe
    b) Students then ask questions (yes/no) to gather data about the idea or event so that they can identify any patterns
    c) Students then test these patterns against other ideas or events of a similar nature to confirm ideas they have come to
    d) Students then form generalisations that underline the basic principle of what they are learning
    e) The teacher then leads students in a discussion of their thinking process and poses questions about how they came to their conclusions

    It is the investigation of a subject by students (student centered learning) to solve a problem through critical thinking and evaluating information gathered through observation and questioning (enquiring)

Firsthand investigation; direct experience and experiments such as measuring an object

Secondhand investigation; consulting books, internet etc. to gather information

Problem based learning is learning to enquire to solve a problem.
It helps students to develop a flexible knowledge and understanding of complex
concepts that can be applied in many situations.

Students are confronted with a problem, which creates an enquiry as they collaborate
to find solutions. Students identify and analyse the problem based on facts from the
scenario and generate hypotheses about solutions. They identify missing information
(what do they need to know to test their solutions?) which launches a research phase.
Students apply any new knowledge, evaluate the problem and continue the cyle as
needed until they reflet on knowledge and skills gained. Each step is scaffolded by the
                                                                                                                     – Woolfolk and Margetts (2013) p.329

Enquiry and problem based learning work together as students require the ability to
use enquiry to solve problems posed in this type of learning.

Briefly describe the similarities and differences between ‘Group Work’, ‘Cooperation’ and ‘Collaboration’ What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of these practices?

GROUP WORK; several students working together in a group – may or may not be cooperating or collaborating. Can be useful to generate work but does not neccassarily promote higher order thinking.

COOPERATION; this focuses on members of a group working towards a common goal, however it does not encourage diverse perspectives, debate or negotiating as they are all wanting to have the same thing completed – there is a high level of teacher control here and is very content specific.

COLLABORATION; this is a complex combination of both and is characterized by discussion, debate, diverse perspectives, feedback and the involvement of each student to reach a consensus. This provides students with the chance to express their own ideas and compare ways of thinking within the group to investigate topics and practice higher order thinking. This will only work if everyone is involved.

    1. Briefly describe motivation and engagement.

      MOTIVATION; is defined as an internal state that arouses, directs and maintains behaviour (Woolfolk & Margetts 2013). It is the energy a student has to learn and achieve goals. It can also be tied to things a student enjoys or has personal interst in.

      Academic achievement is linked to motivation, as having a passion or a will to learn ensures learning occurs, whereas students who lack motivation often have low achievements. Motivation should be examined with engagement of learning to measure its use.

      ENGAGEMENT; can be thought of as the energy in the action of motvation (Woolfolk & Margetts 2013).
      Behavioural engagement refers to a student’s observable actions; it is involving themselevs and putting effort into tasks through participation.
      Emotional engagement is the compnenet of engagement that directs emotional reactins to tasks or learning (including relationships with peers and teachers)
      Cognitive engagement relates to the mental effort, learning styles and startegies, goal setting and self regulation in the task.

    2. Why might goal setting strategies improve performance and what types of goals are more likely to improve performance? (p. 360)

      A goal is something an indivdual sets out to achieve whether it is academic or personal. To have a goal enourages motivation and engagement to reach the goal that has been set by the individual, and so improves the performance of that person to get there.  Goals motivate pople to act to reduce ‘where they are’ and ‘where they want to be’ (Woolfolk & Margetts 2013)

      Goals improve perfomance by directing our attention (to the task at hand), energising our efforts (the harder the goal, the greater the effort), increasing our persistence (we won’t want to give up)  & pormoting the development of new knowledge and strategies (trying new approaches to achieve what we need to)

    3. Types of Goals and Goal Orientations – discuss the four ‘Achievement Goal Orientations in School’.

      There are a few types of goals and a number of goal orientations.

      Specific goals provide clear standards for judging performance  and specify what is needed to achieve the goal (for example; saying you will read chapter 1 rather than saying you will read the book, there is something to compare the outcome to and judge how much work is needed)

      Moderate difficulty provides challeneg without being unreasonable. It is almost competing with the task to get the best outcome (for example, you can finish reading that chapter if you just stay with it)

      Reached fairly soon motivate us to ‘just get them done’ since it is so close and needs doing anyway (for example, you would finish reading the last few pages of chapter 1 before moving onto a new task that may also be urgent)

      Goal orientations are patterns of beliefs about goals related to achievement and include reasons why we pursue goals and the standards used to evaluate progress.
      Four main goal orientaions are;

      1. Mastery (learning);
      to improve knowledge and learn no matter how awkward you appear to others – task involved learners

      2. Performance (looking good); caring about demonstrating abilities to others, such as good test scores or winning/beating others – ego-involved learners

      3. Work-avoidance; not wanting to look ‘smart’ and feel successful when they don’t have to try – work-avoidant learners

      4. Social; non-academic activites and relationships affect learning (more common in older students). Goals of mainting a freidnly relationship may jeapordize learning due to a stuent not wanting to challeneg or correct that individual which may affect their friendship. ‘Having fun’ and not being labelled a ‘nerd’ can also hinder learning. On the other hand, to bring honour to family of a team by working hard can support learning.

    4. Understand ‘Feedback, Goal Framing and Goal Acceptance’. Explain why these factors might make goal setting more effective.

      Feedback is a factor in goal setting that identifies “where you are” and “where you want to be” so that students are motivated and directed with an accurate sense of both, with emphasis on progress and how far you have left to go.

      Goal framing is explaining (framing) work as being intrinsic goals for students (such as becoming better at something and enhancing self as well as relationships with others) which is often something personal the student wants to achieve and so is motivated. Alternatively tasks can be framed as being extrinsic goals where a studetn will achieve the expectations of someone else and does not involve deeper learning or relevance.

      Goal acceptance is the commitment to a goal. If a student rejects a goal or refuses to set their own, motivation will suffer. People will often adopt goals that are realistic, reasonably difficult or meaningful – they are given value through connecting to intrinsic interests.

      These factors will assist in shaping goals for students that will provide motivation and enhance learning.

      Extrinsic motivation; occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment (studying because you want to get a good grade or competing in sport to win a trophy)

      Intrinsic motivation; involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward (participating in a sport because you find the activity enjoyable or finishing a puzzle because you find it challenging and fun)


    5. Beliefs about ability can have significant effects on a student’s progress. What are the consequences (for teachers and for students) of holding either an “entity view of ability” or an “incremental view of ability”?

      Entity view of ability assumes that ability is a stable, uncontrollable trait (Woolfolk & Margetts 2013) – it is seen to be a charactertistic of someone that cannot be changed and has a foundation that some poeple simply have more ability thatn others. In the context of a student, entity view often initiates setting performance goals to avoid looking bad to protect self-esteem; and so students will keep doing what they can do well to avoid failure (and therefore learning perhaps). In the context of a teacher, having this view means being quicker to make judgements and slower to modigy opinions.

      Incremental view of ability is the opposite, in which it suggests ability is unstable and controllable (Woolfolk & Margetts 2013). This idea is that knowledge can be increased through practice, study and hard work and can be improved upon. In the context of the student, incremental view is associated with greater motivation and learning, students believing they can improve. In the context of the teacher, they will more often set mastery goals and create situations where students can improve their skills – failure is not devastating!

    6. Explore the concepts of ‘Self Efficacy’ and ‘Self Worth’ and have a clear understanding of ‘learned helplessness’.

      Self-efficacy is our beliefs about our personal competence or effectiveness in a given area (Woolfolk & Margetts 2013). It is a future-orientated assesment of our ability to perform a task and influences our actions accordingly. Four sources of self-efficacy have been identified by Bandura;

      1. Mastery
      ; our own direct experiences that influence self-efficacy (success raises it whilst failure lowers it)

      2. Physiological and emotional arousal; bodily and emotional responces to a situation and how these things are interepreted (being anxious vs. being psyched up)

      3. Vicarious experiences; someone else models accomplishments – if a student closely identifies with them, there will be agreater impact on self-efficacy. To see them succeed raises self-efficacy, seeing them fail lowers it.

      4. Social persuasion; feedback on a performance to give a boost to lead to more effort and new startegies by the student; self doubt is still embedded however.

      Self worth refers to how a student feels about themselves and their educational abilities. Mastery orientated students who value achievement and see ability as improvable do not fear failure as it does not effect their sense of competence or self-worth. Failure avoiding students lack a strong sense of their own competence and self-worth, and only feel as smart as their last grade. Their sense of self-wroth and self-efficacy deteriorates maing them failure-accepting students.

      Learned helplessness is when people come to believe that the events and outcomes in their lives are mostly uncontrollable (Seligman, 1975). Three types of deficits with learned helplessness are;

      1. Motivational; hopeless students will be un-motivated and reluctant to attempt work and will miss opportunities to practice and improve due to pessimism

      2. Cognitive; students who miss these opportunities do not get to practice the cognitive connections required to understand the content

      3. Affective; as they do not learn, studetns begin to feel depressed, anxious or listless and the cycle continues – unless a teacher can change things!


      Readings: Educational Psychology 3rd ed by Anita Woolfolk & Kay Margetts
      Image source:

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