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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
TTJZS
study was conducted to examine the relationship between student interest
and motivation. Previous studies have shown that measures of interest Imve 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, Bmnning &
Svoboda,
1995;
Stipiek,
1996;
Tobias,
1994),
there
has
been
no systematic effort
to
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,
26506,
kaweber@wvu.edu.
COMMUNICATION RESEARCH REPORTS, Volume
20,
Number
4,
pages 376-383
Interest and Motivation - 377
Motivation
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,
2001;
Pintrich
&
DeGroot,
1990;
Schiefele,
1991).
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.
Interest
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,
1993;
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,
1994;
Gorham
&
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
LES
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-
vation?
Interest and Motivation - 379
RQ2:
What is the relationship between interest and measures of external moti-
vation?
METHOD
Participants
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
18-43.
There were 104
males and 103 females and 2 non-reports.
Measures
Interest was measured using the Frymier et al. (1996) Learner Empowerment Scale
(LES).
Previous research has shown this to be an accurate and reliable way to measure
interest (Weber et al.,
2001;
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
LES
achieved an alpha of
.93
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,
1993).
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
is.
The Intrinsic Goal Orientation and Task Value subscales are composed of
4
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
8-items
and
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-
sure.
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
RESULTS
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
LES
summative score was significantly
and positively related to the Task Value (r=.75, p<.01) and Intrinsic Goal Orientation
(r=.58,
p<.01) subscales of the MSLQ, as well as the Duda and NichoUs (1992) Task
Orientation subscale (r=.22,
p<.01).
See Table 1.
TABLE 1
Relationship Between Interest Variables and Motivation Measures
Variable
I.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
II.
LES (total scale)
Meaningful
Impact
Competence
MSLQ (total scale)
MSLQ (task)
MSLQ (intrinsic)
MSLQ (extrinsic)
EGO (total scale)
EGO Task
EGO Extrinsic
2.
.85*
.80*
.64*
.67*
.75*
.58*
.04
.03
.22*
.04
3.
.50*
.35*
.75*
.83*
.63*
.07
.05
.22*
.04
4.
.31*
.42*
.49*
.41*
.06
.05
.06
.09
5.
.31*
.33*
.23*
.10
.07
.24*
.03
6.
.91*
.84*
.46*
.26*
.36*
.14
7.
.72*
.13
.14*
.25*
.05
8. 9. 10.
.13
.17*
.35*
.44*
.
17*
.92*
.01 .33* .55*
II.
.17*
* 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
LES.
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,
p<.01):
Rcl = .83, explaining
73%
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.
DISCUSSION
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
TABl
F.
2
Relationship
Between Motivation Variables and Empowerment Subscales
Motivation
and Empowermcnl Variables Root 1
Set 1 Meaningfulness
.83
Impact
.50
Competence
.34
Set
2
Task
Value (MSLQ) .83
Intrinsic
Value (MSLQ) .63
Extrinsic
Value (MSLQ) .07
Task
Orientation (Goal Orientation) .23
Ego
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
2
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,
1991;
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
382
-
Communication Research Reports/Fall 2003
limited amount of impact on any particular
class.
This would leave meaningfulness as
the dimension of interest that
is
most effected by what happens in the
classroom.
Teachers
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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... The prior motivation is connected to the joy you get from the task itself; the latter is connected to some form of external reward. A similar affective variable, interest, has been shown to be connected to intrinsic motivation [12]. Several studies over time within different fields have shown that while intrinsic motivation is very positively correlated with better quality work and better performance, a focus on extrinsic rewards may be counterproductive [13][14][15][16]. ...
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