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The relationship of interest to internal and external motivation


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This study was conducted to examine the relationship between student interest and motivation. Previous studies have shown that measures of interest have attained positive relationships with global measures of motivation (Frymier, Shulman & Houser, 1996; Weber & Patterson, 2000). Additionally, even though a number of instructional researchers have speculated that interest is related to motivation through intrinsic means (Brophy, 1983; Mitchell, 1993; Schiefele, 1991; Schraw, Brunning & Svoboda, 1995; Stipiek, 1996; Tobias, 1994), there has been no systematic effort to provide any empirical evidence to these claims. Results indicate that interest is significantly related to intrinsic, but not extrinsic, motivation.
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The Relationship of Interest to Internal and External Motivation
Keith Weber
West Virginia University
study was conducted to examine the relationship between student interest
and motivation. Previous studies have shown that measures of interest Imve attained
global measures
of motivation
Shulman & Houser,
Weber & Patterson, 2000). Additionally, even though a number of instructional
researchers have speculated
that interest
is related to
motivation through intrinsic means
Mitchell, 1993;
1991; Schraw, Bmnning &
no systematic effort
provide any empiri-
cal evidence to these claims. Results indicate that interest is significantly related to
intrinsic, but not extrinsic, motivation.
It is widely accepted within the instructional literature that affective variables have
an energizing effect on learning (Tobias, 1994). Two of these affective variables that
have received considerable attention are interest and motivation. Previous research
indicates that there is a positive association between these two variables and learning.
Additionally, research conducted by Frymier, Shulman, and Houser (1996) as well as
Weber, Martin, and Patterson (2001) points to a positive relationship between mea-
sures of student interest and motivation.
This last finding supports previous assumptions made by instructional researchers
who claim that student motivation can be increased by utilizing classroom activities
that are interesting to the students or by referencing topic areas that students are inter-
ested in for class discussion (Ames, 1992; Frymier, 1993). What is not clear at this time
is the nature of the relationship between student motivation and interest. While previ-
ous research has shown student interest to be related to global measures of motivation,
there is still a significant question as to whether interest affects motivation through
internal or external means.
Keith Weber (Ed.D. West Virginia University, 1998) is an assistant professor in the Department
of Communication Studies at West Virginia University, 108 Armstrong Hall, Morgantown, WV,
pages 376-383
Interest and Motivation - 377
Motivation has been defined as a directive force that moves an individual to per-
form a certain action and helps sustain the continuance of that action (Brophy, 1983;
Schrodt, Wheeless, & Ptacek, 2000). Previous research has indicated that a positive
relationship exists between student motivation and different types of learning.
Christophel (1990) and Carrell and Menzel (2001) found strong positive relationships
between affective learning and global measures of student motivation. Richmond (1990),
as well as Christensen and Menzel (1998), found positive relationships between global
motivation measures and cognitive learning as measured by the learning loss scale.
Later, Chesebro and McCroskey (2000) found a strong relationship between the learn-
ing loss scale and a brief quiz. This relationship between the learning loss measure and
the Chesebro and McCroskey quiz provides support for the relationship between mo-
tivation and cognitive learning. Additionally, Frymier et al (1996) found a positive
relationship between a measure of behavioral learning and motivation.
Pintrich and his colleagues have utilized the Motivated Strategies for Learners
Questionnaire (MSLQ) in an attempt to examine the relationship between the different
types of motivation and cognitive learning (Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990). The MSLQ has
a number of subscales so that the relative impact of internal motivation can bo studied
separately from that of external motivation. Pintrich, Smith, and Garcia (1993) reported
that the Intrinsic Goal Orientation and Task Value subscales of the MSLQ are related to
test scores. Additionally, the Task Value subscale has shown to be the best predictor ot
class grade. This finding is consistent with that of other instructional researchers wht)
have found that internally motivated people use more sophisticated reasoning skills,
more learning strategies and show a greater amount of recall and processing of text
messages (Kerssen-Griep,
On the other
hand, the benefits of external motivation are not as clear. In fact, according to Brophy
(1983) and Dewey (1916), externally motivated people do not experience similar re-
sults in learning.
Findings such as these underscore the importance of further examining the inter-
est/motivation relationship. If it is true that student learning and performance is re-
lated only to internal motivation, then instructional researchers and practitioners need
to focus solely on this aspect of motivation. As stated previously, many instructional
researchers assert that one way to increase student motivation is tlirough the manipu-
lation of interest. The question that needs to be answered is if interest increases motiva-
tion through internal or external means.
The role of interest in learning has been a topic of discussion for over the past
hundred years. According to Schiefele (1991), interest can be traced back to Herbart
who was one of the earliest educators to look at education from a psychological stand-
point. Herbart saw the development of multi-faceted interest as a primary goal to edu-
cation and believed that interest promotes long-term storage of information and moti-
vation for learning (Schiefele, 1991).
Contemporary researchers view interest as a three dimensional construct consist-
ing of a superordinate factor structure. These three dimensions are meaningfulness,
impact, and competence (Mitchell,
Schiefele, 1991). Meaningfulness relates to the
378 - Communication Research Reports/Fall 2003
perceived value of a task. The more a task has meaning to an individual, the harder
that person will work to complete that task. Competence refers to one s feelings about
their abilities and previous knowledge. Interest is diminished when individuals feel
they are ill prepared to complete a certain task. Conversely, individuals tend to be
more interested in topics that they feel competent discussing. Finally, impact signifies
that the source is important to the completion of a task, and that the task makes a
difference. The more impact individuals believe they have, the more interested they
feel.The majority of the interest research has been conducted in the field of educational
psychology. In fact, until recently the study of interest has been virtually ignored in the
instructional communication literature. While student interest has been referred to as a
variable that impacts motivation and learning (Frymier,
Millette, 1997;
Richmond & Gorham, 1996) the body of literature to support this idea did not exist.
Weber et al (2001) argued that the absence of interest research was mainly due to the
lack of a valid measurement instrument. Even in the educational psychology field,
where there was a small but emerging area of study surrounding student interest, the
measurement devices being utilized were flawed.
Schraw, Brunning, and Svaboda (1995) designed the Perceived Interest Question-
naire (PIQ). This instrument is a highly reliable unidimensional scale. It is the unidi-
mensionality of the scale that calls its content validity into question. Weber et al (2001)
argued that in order to accurately measure interest, which is conceptually a three-di-
mensional construct, the measurement device needs to refer to all three dimensions.
With this in mind, the authors suggested that the Frymier et al (1996) Learner Empow-
erment Scale (LES) was a reliable and valid measure of student interest. The authors
argued that the conceptualization of the Frymier et al
is identical to that of student
interest. The LES is composed of three subscales. These three subscales are Meaning-
fulness, Impact, and Feelings of Competence.
Weber and Patterson (2000) supported this argument through the use of a factor
analysis. The authors conducted a factor analysis with the items from both the Frymier
et al (1996) LES as well as those of the Schraw et al (1995) PIQ. The result was a three-
factor solution with all of the PIQ items loading on the same factor as the Meaningful-
ness items from the LES. This led the authors to conclude that the PIQ was only mea-
suring one dimension of interest.
In empirical tests between interest and motivation, Weber and Patterson (2000)
reported positive correlations between interest and the Richmond (1990) moti\ ation
scale. Weber et al (2001) found a similar positive relationship between interest and
motivation in a sample of at-risk middle school students. These findings are consistent
with those found by Frymier et al (1996) who also found that the LES was related to
immediacy, relevance, self-esteem, and both affective and behavioral learning.
While previous research supports the assertion that interest is related to motiva-
tion, the issue that still needs to be addressed deals with the exact nature of the rela-
tionship between these variables. It is not clear if interest is related to internal or exter-
nal motivation. As a result, the following research questions are forwarded.
RQl: What is the relationship between interest and measures of internal moti-
Interest and Motivation - 379
What is the relationship between interest and measures of external moti-
Participants for this study were 209 college students from a leirge mid-Atlantic
university. The average age of the sample was 21.4 ranging from
There were 104
males and 103 females and 2 non-reports.
Interest was measured using the Frymier et al. (1996) Learner Empowerment Scale
Previous research has shown this to be an accurate and reliable way to measure
interest (Weber et al.,
Weber & Patterson, 2000). The LES is a three-dimensional
scale with a superordinate factor structure. Summative scores on the LES have been
found to have significant and positive relationships with measures of immediacy, rel-
evance, self-esteem, affective learning, behavioral learning, and state motivation. All
three subscales (meaningfulness, impact, and competence) have exhibited the same
pattern of results as the summative scale. For the purposes of the current project, the
achieved an alpha of
while the three sub-scales, impact, competence, and mean-
ingfulness, achieved alphas of .88, .92, and .91 respectively.
Three different measures of internal motivation were employed for this study. The
first two measures of internal motivation were the Intrinsic Goal Orientation and Task
Value sub-scales from the MSLQ (Pintrich, et al,
The MSLQ is based on a general
social-cognitive view of motivation, where the student is seen as an active processor of
information. In past research, the MSLQ has been positively related to academic per-
formance. The Intrinsic Goal Orientation subscale of the MSLQ measures a student's
motivation for why they are engaging in a learning task. The Task Value subscale of
the MSLQ refers to the student's evaluation of how interesting, important, and useful
the class
The Intrinsic Goal Orientation and Task Value subscales are composed of
and 6 items and in the present study, the respective subscales attained reliabilities of
.80 and .93.
The third manner in which internal motivation was measured was by the Duda
and NichoUs (1992) Task Goal Orientation Measure. Research has found that student's
goal orientations are consistent with their beliefs about how success is achieved. A task
goal orientation holds a belief that the goal to school is the improving of one's skill or
gaining knowledge. Task orientation is generally associated with the belief that suc-
cess requires interest, effort, and collaboration. The scale is composed of
achieved an alpha of .87.
Extrinsic motivation was measured in two ways. The first was the Extrinsic Goal
Orientation (EGO) subscale of the MSLQ. The EGO subscale is composed of 4 items
and attained a reliability of .80 in the present study.
The second method for measuring external motivation was through the Ego Orien-
tation (EO) subscale of the Duda and Nicholls (1992) classroom goal orientation mea-
EO is defined by the goal of proving one's superiority over others by demonstrat-
ing high ability, often with little effort. In the present investigation the EO subscale
attained an alpha of .92.
380 - Communication Research Reports/Fall 2003
Research Question 1 was concerned with the relationship between interest and
internal motivation. Results of a correlation analyses indicate that interest and internal
motivation measures are positively related. The
summative score was significantly
and positively related to the Task Value (r=.75, p<.01) and Intrinsic Goal Orientation
p<.01) subscales of the MSLQ, as well as the Duda and NichoUs (1992) Task
Orientation subscale (r=.22,
See Table 1.
Relationship Between Interest Variables and Motivation Measures
LES (total scale)
MSLQ (total scale)
MSLQ (task)
MSLQ (intrinsic)
MSLQ (extrinsic)
EGO (total scale)
EGO Task
EGO Extrinsic
8. 9. 10.
.01 .33* .55*
* indicates/7<.05
Research Question 2 was concerned with the relationship between interest and
extrinsic motivation. Results of a correlation analysis failed to find statistically signifi-
cant relationships between interest and both measures of external motivation. The LES
was not related to either the Extrinsic Goal Orientation subscale of the MSLQ (r=.O4,
p>.05) or the Duda and NichoUs (1992) Ego Orientation subscale (r=-.O4, p>.05).
Post Hoc Analysis
To help illuminate the nature of the relationship between interest and the different
types of motivation, a canonical correlation analysis was run. This additional test was
deemed important since what we are really looking for is a profile or a pattern of
results between the different dimensions of interest and the different types of motiva-
tion. In other words, since interest is a multidimensional construct it is likely that the
different dimensions of interest have different relationships with motivation.
The first set of variables included were the three subscales from the
The sec-
ond set of variables was the motivation measures. The canonical correlation analysis
resulted in one significant and interpretable root (Wilks' lambda=.27, F[15,191]=21.8,
Rcl = .83, explaining
of the variance. The root indicated that individuals
who perceive a high degree of meaningfulness, and to a lesser extent feel that they
have an impact and are competent, report a higher amount of internal motivation. See
Table 2.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of the interest/motivation
relationship. More precisely, it was the relaHonship of interest to both internal and
Interest and Motivation - 381
Between Motivation Variables and Empowerment Subscales
and Empowermcnl Variables Root 1
Set 1 Meaningfulness
Value (MSLQ) .83
Value (MSLQ) .63
Value (MSLQ) .07
Orientation (Goal Orientation) .23
Orientation (Goal Orientation) -^05
external motivation that was in question. While a number of instructional researchers
have theorized about the nature of interest/motivation relationship, until now there
has been no data to either support or refute these theories.
Research Question 1 was concerned with the relationship between interest and
internal motivation. Results indicate that there is a positive relationship between inter-
est and internal motivation. All three measures of internal motivation were positively
related to interest. Research Question
was concerned with the relationship of interest
to measures of external motivation. The data fail to support the existence of a relation-
ship between interest and external motivation. The results from these two Research
Questions indicate that interest is an instructional variable that is strongly related to
internal but not external motivation. These findings support the assertions of most
instructional researchers who assert that internal motivation can be enhanced through
interest (Dweck, 1986; Schiefele,
Graham & Weiner, 1996).
The post hoc analysis was concerned not just with interest's relationship to motiva-
tion, but more of a profile of this relationship. Since interest is a multidimensional
construct, how do the different dimensions of interest relate to the different types of
motivation? The result of the Canonical Correlation indicate that students who see the
meaningfulness of the material, and to a lesser extent, feel they have an impact and are
competent, are more internally motivated. Given the results of Research Questions 1
and 2 it is not surprising that only one significant root emerged. We would expect to
find a single significant root because of the lack of a relationship between interest and
external motivation.
What is noteworthy is the pattern of results from the Canonical Correlation. An
examination of the canonical loadings for the interest variables indicates that it is the
meaningfulness of the material that is most strongly related to internal motivation.
Given that the meaningfulness subscale of the LES measures perceptions of value and
that Pintrich et al (1993) found that receiver's perceptions of a class's value is the best
predictor of class grade this finding seems logical.
A second possible explanation for the dominance of meaningfulness in these find-
ings is that this is the dimension that is most easily manipulated by instructors. A
students feeling of competence would seem to be influenced by a number of things
outside the influence of the instructor. Personality traits, such as self-esteem and locus
of control influence a person's feelings of competence. Similarly, because of the nature
of the teacher-student relationship, students might feel as though they can have only a
Communication Research Reports/Fall 2003
limited amount of impact on any particular
This would leave meaningfulness as
the dimension of interest that
most effected by what happens in the
vary in the amount and type of examples and activities they use and according to Ames
(1992) it is through these examples and activities that teachers help students under-
stand the meaningfulness of course content.
Future research should focus on how teachers can structure their classes to increase
student interest, and thereby increasing internal motivation, via all three dimensions.
We should not just rely on the meaningfulness dimension of interest to help increase
student motivation. Instructional researchers need to look at what types of activities
help students feel that they have an impact on the classroom environment and how we
can structure courses so as to increase students' perceptions of their own competence.
By doing so, we should be able to get a clearer picture of the underlying processes that
are responsible for the relationship between affective variables and cognitive learning.
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cation Research
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We tested the relationship among sources of interest, perceived interest, and text recall. Sources of interest referred to factors (e.g., ease of comprehension) that evoke feelings of interest in a text. Perceived interest referred to the feeling of interest itself. A factor analysis revealed six different sources of interest. Of these, ease of comprehension and vividness explained 45% of the variance in perceived interest. In turn, perceived interest explained 18% of the variance in text recall; however, only ease of comprehension was related to recall once perceived interest was controlled statistically. Results suggested that different sources of interest affect perceived interest, which in turn, affects recall. Implications for text design and future research were discussed.
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The concept of empowerment has been used extensively in business, politics, and education in myriad ways and with multiple meanings. In this study, empowerment is conceptualized as a form of motivation (Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Thomas & Velthouse, 1990) which can exist as either a state or a trait. We believe that communication has a major influence on students' empowerment just as communication frequently impacts such conditions as state motivation (Frymier, 1994). The long range goal, for which this research is a first step, is to understand the role of communication in the process of empowerment. The immediate goals of this research are to provide a more specific conceptualization of empowerment as applied to the classroom and to develop an instrument to measure learner empowerment. Drawing heavily on the work of Thomas and Velthouse (1990), two studies were conducted to develop and refine the learner empowerment measure and to establish the construct validity of the instrument.
Both sport and academic work play large roles in school life, yet there is little comparative evidence on the nature or generality of achievement motivation across these domains. In this study, beliefs about the causes of success in school and sport of 207 high school students were found to be related in a logical fashion to their personal goals. The ego-involved goal of superiority was associated with the belief that success requires high ability, whereas task orientation (the goal of gaining knowledge) was associated with beliefs that success requires interest, effort, and collaboration with peers. These goal-belief dimensions, or theories about success, cut across sport and schoolwork. However, little cross-domain generality was found for perceptions of ability and intrinsic satisfaction. Intrinsic satisfaction in sport primarily related to perceived ability in that setting. Task orientation, not perceived ability, was the major predictor of satisfaction in schoolwork.
Recent experimental research (Comstock, Rowell, & Bowers, 1995) has suggested a curvilinear relationship between teacher immediacy behaviors and student learning. To help specify the scope and range of this finding, we examined these variables as they occur in actual relationships between college professors and students. In natural settings, we predicted and found positive, linear relationships between teacher nonverbal and verbal immediacy and perceived cognitive, affective, and behavioral learning. We also found a positive, linear relationship between both kinds of teacher immediacy and state motivation.
This study explored the relationship among informational reception apprehension (IRA) factors, student motivation, and student achievement. Based on Wheeless, Preiss, and Gayle's (1997) recently developed construct, the authors hypothesized that IRA scores for listening and inflexibility would predict educational motivation scores and measures of achievement. Furthermore, this study extended existing research on student motivation and the effects of antecedent conditions, such as trait‐like IRA. Results indicated that informational reception apprehension can be taken into consideration in order to account more adequately for student motivation and achievement.
Because classrooms are work settings in which students are engaged in compulsory activities and because the work involved is largely intellectual rather than physical, concepts and measures developed for studying motivation in free choice play situations have limited application to the study of student motivation for engaging in academic activities. More attention is needed to the cognitive aspects of motivation (not just its affective aspects) and to the value that students place on academic activity (not just their performance expectations and attributions). This article discusses these issues and offers suggestions about how teachers might become more successful than they are now in socializing their students to become motivated to learn. Motivation to learn in school means seeking to acquire the knowledge or skill that an academic activity is designed to develop, not merely getting the activity finished or doing the minimum necessary to meet requirements.
This study called the use of the learning‐loss scale into question to the extent that the scale has not been validated experimentally. In order to conduct such a validation, students’ performance in an experimental lecture was compared to their self‐report of how much they learned during that lecture. The results identified a moderately strong validity coefficient between students’ performance on a recall test and reports of how much they believed they learned during a lecture.
Relying on an interdisciplinary link between identity management and student motivation research, this study describes teacher communication activities that students in two graduate preprofessional classrooms identified as face-relevant. Ethnographic methods found 7 instructional communication activities during which students reported feeling one or more of their face needs addressed (i.e., supported or threatened). Findings and extant research are cited to demonstrate the positive motivational consequences of instructor face-support during these face-relevant interactions. Results extend previous communication research on motivation, immediacy, and influence in the classroom.
One‐hundred and twenty lower division and 49 upper division undergraduate students enrolled in a small Midwestern university were randomly assigned to three experimental educational settings: a live classroom, a video classroom, and an audio with Powerpoint display classroom. The lower division students viewed a brief lecture presented in the live classroom and simulcast to the other two settings. The upper division students viewed a 45 minute lecture presented in the live classroom and simulcast to the other two settings. The impact of the settings on participant learning, motivation, and perceived teacher immediacy was assessed in both studies. Perceived instructor immediacy was significantly higher for the live setting. For the longer lecture, motivation, perceived learning, affect toward the instructor, and willingness to enroll with instructor all varied significantly and were highest in the live setting. Actual short‐term learning varied significantly and was highest for the Powerpoint classroom. Student cognitive style was assessed, but the researchers found no significant variation based on this variable.
Two studies investigated the relationship between teacher immediacy and student state motivation and the combined impact of these factors on learning. Study One participants completed all instruments based on a preceding class. The scales were randomly split between students in Study Two who completed them based on an intact class. Correlations revealed significant relationships between learning and both immediacy and motivation. Regression analyses indicated both unique and colinear predictability of learning by nonverbal immediacy and state motivation. Immediacy appears to modify motivation which leads to increased learning. Important implications of Study Two data indicate relationships observed in earlier research were not a simple function of confounding when scores were reported by the same subjects completing multiple instruments.