Knowledge of Theory


My knowledge of theory is grounded on educational theories which examine how and why students learn. The theories suggest that students learn best through intrinsic motivation and when guided to become self-directed learners. Although I perused the works of John Dewey and Carl Rogers, I became most immersed in the self-efficacy theory, self-determination theory and implicit theories of intelligence; so I proposed a motivational theory framework which might integrate the underpinnings of these three contemporary theories. I also wanted to learn if and how this motivational theory framework could be applied to the varied educational experiences of a diverse family, so I invited my son and daughter to co-author an article with me which has since been submitted to the Learning Landscapes journal. Accordingly, I chose this article as my first artifact so feel free to review my interpretation of this experience below.  

Montgomery, D. P., Montgomery, M., Montgomery, M.T. (In review). Theories of motivation to support the needs of all learners. Learning Landscapes Journal.

Artifact #1- The development of a motivational theory framework

The artifact which demonstrates my knowledge of theory is a journal article co-authored by my son, my daughter and I, which illustrates the impact of motivational theories on each of our diverse educational experiences. The works of Rogers and Dewey explained how self-directed learning and active learning through experience influenced my own early educational encounters (Dewey, 1899; Provenzoi, E, 1979; Rogers, 1969). However, the bulk of my theoretical knowledge was gained through a deeper investigation into Bandura's self-efficacy theory, Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT), and Dweck’s implicit theories of intelligence. 

Bandura (1997) proposed that self-efficacy is based on: performance accomplishment through the mastery of experiences, vicarious experience through observing others perform similar tasks, verbal persuasion through feedback, and physiological states through an emotional arousal. Although Deci et al (1991) agreed with the importance of self-efficacy, they believed that self-efficacy only focuses on the direction of behavior that leads to the outcome, whereas SDT addresses both the direction and the reason for certain outcomes. Deci and Ryan (2000) maintained that three basic psychological needs are essential to drive motivation: competency through the feeling of mastery and feedback; autonomy through self-initiation and self-regulation of one’s own actions; and relatedness through the feeling of belongingness. Self-efficacy theory suggests that the perceived competence a person has to perform a specific task engenders externally motivated behavior; whereas, SDT focuses on intrinsic motivation and postulates both competence and autonomy are essential to intrinsically motivated behavior (Bandura, 1997; Rhew et al., 2018).  SDT proposes that external motivation can be autonomous or controlled falling along a continuum with varying degrees of extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2020). Intrinsic motivation is further expanded in Dweck’s implicit theories of intelligence, commonly known as growth mindset and fixed mindset (Dweck, 2016; Dweck & Yeager, 2019). Dweck suggests that individuals who believe their abilities are innate and cannot be changed have a fixed mindset; in contrast to those with a growth mindset who believe their development is based on the extent of their efforts. Dweck maintains that individuals with a fixed mindset are externally motivated whereas those with a growth mindset are intrinsically motivated (Dweck, 2016). 

When applying these theories to the lived experiences of diverse learners, I recognized the endless outcomes an instructional practice could elicit on a student’s motivation depending on the motivational tendency of the individual (Deci et al, 1991;  Dweck, 1999; Dweck et al., 2020; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Yeager and Dweck, 2020). This lesson caused me to reflect on the ways I may have positively influenced or negatively stifled the learning of my own children or some of the students I have taught, specifically when I praised them for intelligence instead of effort, or resisted to encourage challenging experiences (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2017, RSA, 2013). I also learned how baffling it might be to identify and influence learners with fixed and growth mindsets as there are many variations that define these labels (Dweck, 2016; Haimovitz & Dweck’s, 2017). In the vignettes of Matt and Molly, it was sometimes difficult to determine if each had a growth or fixed mindset depending on the circumstances. Of the three theories, STD offers the most detailed approach into pinpointing not only if a learner is extrinsically or intrinsically motivated but to what degree within the SDT continuum from Amotivation, to autonomous and controlled extrinsic motivations, to intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2020). Therefore, SDT will be the most suitable theoretical framework to ground my dissertation research.

REFERENCES have been included in the full version of my introductory paper.