A cultural-historical approach to theorising motivational development

Year: 2019

Author: MacCallum, Judith

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Within cultural-historical approaches to learning and development, motivation is under-theorised. In contrast, motivation theories are at the forefront of mainstream educational psychology. In Thinking and SpeechVygotsky touched on motivation arguing that thought had its origins in the motivating sphere of consciousness, but his ideas remained undeveloped. In this paper I review social cognitive and cultural motivation theories in order to contribute to a cultural-historical theorisation of motivational development.

Two lines of theorisation related to motivation in current cultural-historical approaches are Hedegaard’s work drawing on Leontiev’s activity theory and motive, and Gonzalez-Rey’s reinterpretation of Vygotsky’s early and late works on subjectivity.For Gonzalez-Rey theconcept of motive as treated in activity theory is too static an entity to function in propelling behaviour.He focuses on the unity of personality and environment, and the generative nature of emotions andproposes a definition of motivation as a unit that integrates emotions, intellect and action. Hedegaard also reiterates the importance of forces both in the person and the environment that give rise to how persons relate to the world and how this relation develops.

In the paper I unpack each of these theorisations of motivation and explore how they inform, contradict and enrich each other. I also examine potential contributions from social cognitive motivation theories (incorporating concepts ofachievement/social goals, individual/situational interest, intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, self-schema) particularly those tackling change or development.

Discussion will focus on the value of theorising motivation and its development, what changes and why, and how we might better support children’s motivational development.