EPSY612 Syllabus

EPSY612:  Motivation  Spring 2017 (Call #9894)

Time/Place                 Tuesday 4:15-7:05/HU032

Instructor:                  David Yun Dai, Ph.D.           

Office: ED233BPhone: 442-5068    Email: ydai@albany.edu                 

Office Hours:             Monday 1:00-3:00 & Tuesday 1:00-3:00, and by appointment

Readings:   Available at http://www.david.dai.net; (click “Courses” to find EPSY612; click relevant articles for downloading)


            This course is designed to achieve three main goals:

1) To provide an overview of current theory and research on human motivation, particularly as it pertains to learning and achievement in formal and informal educational settings;

2) To help develop critical thinking with respect to the complexity of human motivation in educational settings and skills needed to be a good consumer of scientifically generated knowledge; and

3) To facilitate understandings of implications and applications of motivational theories and principles in authentic educational settings.  

            The course is organized around key motivation constructs relevant to motivation in educational settings (learning and achievement). The focus is to

1)      Define specific dimensions of human motivation and understand their underpinnings and intricacies of these dimensions;

2)      Identify their relevance and significance in educational settings; and

3)      Know how to measure and study them in natural or experimental settings.


1)  Class preparation and participation (5%).  I assume that everyone will be ready to discuss the assigned readings each week.  You need to allocate substantial amounts of time for reading before each class (you should NOT read them too leisurely).  I expect everyone to contribute to group and class discussions.  A discussion board is set up in the Blackboard to facilitate discussion on the topic before class as a “warm-up” activity.  Each student is expected to lead discussion at least once, and participate in discussion at least for five weeks.

Grading will be based on the following scale:

· Always well prepared, can actively participate most of the time, plus meeting minimum expectations                                                                        10%

· Generally well prepared, but not actively participateOR vice versa; falls short of meeting minimum requirements                                                    8%

· Both preparation and participation are less than satisfactory; participation is fewer than 3 weeks                                                                                     6% or less

2)  A mid-term take-home exam (25%).  A midterm exam will consist of four short essay questions regarding the readings covered up to the point when it is given. The questions vary in difficulty level, some assessing your comprehension and others your critical thinking. Evaluation will based on (a) to what extent your description of the presented ideas and arguments involved are accurate (10 points); (b) to what extent your evaluation of these ideas and arguments are based on good reasoning rather than mere subjective opinions (10 points); (c) to what extent your writing shows a well-developed personal perspective or framework (5 points).

                Please note that you need to prepare the take-home exam independently.  A line should be drawn between reasonable exchanges of opinions and perspectives, which we do all the time, and situations that border on directly copying others’ ideas and expressions (see the section on “Academic Integrity”). 

3)  A critique of a motivational theory or construct (20%; 6-8 pages).  You are expected to write a critique of a theoretical idea (6-8 pages) in the context of the history of motivation research and in view of its unique contributions (or the lack thereof) to understanding human motivation, particularly in educational settings.  Both strengths and limitations should be discussed.  You will be given a set of key motivational concepts to choose from. To facilitate your writing, your critique can be structured in the following manner:

(a) Describe the theory or theoretical construct you have chosen in terms of its historical and theoretical origins.  Historical origins involve who proposed the idea under what historical circumstances.  Theoretical origins involve philosophical backgrounds and theoretical antecedents that gave rise to the idea. (1-2 pages)

(b) State clearly what kind of phenomena the theoretical idea attempts to explain, and how underlying motivational processes for the phenomenon are explicated. (1 page)

(c) Explain why the idea is relevant and important to the understanding of motivational issues in educational settings; provide examples to support your argument. (2-3 pages)

(d) Evaluate the idea in terms of strengths and weaknesses, from both theoretical, empirical, and practical points of view (e.g., How well does the theoretical idea explain a set of phenomenon? Is it more viable and compelling than other theoretical accounts, and what are limits of the idea? Empirically, is there solid evidence to back up specific claims? Practically speaking, do the insights provided by the idea provide clues as to how to enhance motivation, directly or indirectly?). (2-3 pages)

(e)    Summarize your critique (1/2-1 page)   

For criteria to be used to evaluate your critique, see Appendix A for a grading rubric.

4) A critique of a research study. (10%; 4-5 pages) You are expected to write a critique of a research study of your choosing from the research literature (i.e., scientific journals). Your critique should address the following questions:

a) how well the study is conceptualized to address important research questions;

b) how well variables involved and relationships are defined and made amenable for empirical investigation;

c) how well the study is carried out with good credibility; and

d) how well the results are interpreted and conclusions are made.

Evaluation of this paper will be based on how well you address the above four questions.

5) Applied Motivational Analysis of Cases (10%; 4-5 pages).  You are expected to write a case analysis, using motivational theories as conceptual tools to diagnose problems and critique and evaluate teaching practices as you observed in the case (4-5 pages).   

            Part 1: Your understanding of the nature of the student motivation to learn and how the learner(s) or/and the classroom conditions contributed to their motivational problems;

            Part 2: What motivational theories are potentially relevant here, and of different alternative perspectives you identify as relevant, which one(s) provide more viable explanations for the problem, and why; make sure your argument is as articulate as possible;

            Part 3: Your suggested solutions based on your understanding of the problem, what you suggest can be done to address motivational problems you identify.  Note that solutions should derive logically from Parts 1 and 2 and should address motivational problems you have identified.

            To guide your writing, a rubric is provided in Appendix B

5) A Final Integration Paper (30%; 10-12 pages). To help you focus on what is most interesting and important to you, you are expected to pick a main topic of motivation and write an integrative review on the topic. The following is a guideline for structuring this review:

A) Conceptualize the problem (what brings up the problem, why it is controversial or important, etc.)

B) Review theoretical arguments and related positive and/or negative evidence in empirical research (a minimum of 7 empirical studies are expected).

C) Summarize the main issues and findings and draw and defend your own conclusion on the topic.

Evaluation will be based on (a) how clearly and accurately you conceptually present the topic, (b) how you integrate the research in support or critiquing a particular perspective or reconciling competing perspectives in a logical and well-organized manner; and (c) how you develop a distinct personal perspective, and (d) how you clearly and professionally (e.g., following APA guidelines).


            Your final grade will be based on percentage of total points you achieve, using a criterion-referenced grading system:

A= 100-95%   A- = 90-94%   B+ = 85-89%   B=  80-84% B- = 75-79% C  = 70-74%                             

References of the Readings

Baiting the hook (case) (Click to download)

Atkinson, J. W. (1957). Motivational determinants of risk taking behavior. Psychological Review, 64, 359-372. (Click to download)

Austin, J. T., & Vancouver, J. B. (1996). Goal constructs in psychology: Strcuture, process, and content. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 338-375. (Click to download)

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 117-148. (Click to download)

Barron, B. (2006). Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecology perspective. Human Development, 49, 193-224. (Click to download)

           Beilock, S., & Carr, T. (2001). On the fragility of skilled performance: What governs                           choking under pressure? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 701-725.                             (Click to download)                      

Boekaerts, M. (1993). Being concerned with well-being and with learning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 149-167. (Click to download)

Eisenberger, R., & Cameron, J. (1996). Detrimental effects of reward: Reality or myth? American Psychologist, 51, 1153-1166. (Click to download)

Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1994). Goal setting, achievement orientation, and intrinsic motivation: a mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 968-980. (Click to download)

Gaskins, R. W. (1999). "Adding legs to a snake": A reanalysis of motivation and the pursuit of happiness from a Buddhist perspective. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 204-215. (Click to download)

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave/Mamillan. (Click to download)

Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). What predicts children's fixed and growth intelligence mind-sets? Not their parents' views of intelligence but their parents' views of failure. Psychological Science, 27, 859-869. (Click to download)

Lepper, M. R., Henderlong, J., & Gingras, I. (1999). Understanding the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation—Uses and abuses of meta-analysis: Comment on Deci, Koestner, and Ryan (1999). Psychological Bulletin, 125, 669-676. (Click to download)

Lepper, M. R., & Hodell, M. (1989). Intrinsic motivation in the classroom. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education V. 3: Goals and cognition (pp. 73-105). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. (Click to download)

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717. (Click to download)

McReynolds, P. (1990). Motives and metaphors: A study in scientifc creativity. In D. E. Leavy (Ed.), Metaphors in the history of psychology (pp. 133-172). New York: Cambridge University Press. (Click to download)

           Mega, C., Ronconi, L., & De Beni, R. (2014). What makes a good student? How emotions,                   self-regulated learning, and motivation contribute to academic achievement. Journal                             of Educational Psychology, 106, 121-131. (Click to download)

Mary Ewing (case). (Click to download)

Simon, H. A. (1967). Motivational and emotional controls of cognition. Psychological Review, 74, 29-39. (Click to download)

Solmon, M. A. (1996). Impact of motivational climate on students' behaviors and perceptions in a physical education setting.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 731-738. (Click to download)

           Spinath, B. & Steinmayr, R. (2012). The Roles of competence beliefs and goal                           orientations for change in intrinsic motivation. (Click to download)

Yu, A-B. (1996). Ultimate life concerns, self, and Chinese achievement motivation. In M. Bong (Ed.), The handbook of Chinese psychology (pp. 227-246). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.  (Click to download)

Weiner, B. (1990). History of motivational research in education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 616-622. (Click to download)