Exploring motivation using cultural-historical theory

Year: 2021

Author: MacCallum, Judy

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Within cultural-historical approaches to development and learning, motivation is under-theorised. González Rey’s reinterpretation of Vygotsky’s early and late works to develop a conceptualisation of subjectivity provides one way to think further about how motivation might be theorised and student motivation understood. For González Rey the concept 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, the generative nature of emotions and proposes a definition of motivation as a unit integrating emotions, intellect and action. Further “sense and perezhivanie emerge during action, in a way in which the action becomes a psychological production rather than a psychological result” (González Rey, 2014). Motivation becomes a subjective production, “intrinsic to the subjective configurations in which the different individual functions and relationships are organised”.In this paper, I present two case studies using concepts of subjectivity, subjective sense and subjective configuration to better understand the motivation of two students and implications for their learning. Trent appeared very competitive and Tina gregarious and talkative in the first weeks of year 3. Trent, Tina, and 22 fellow students were part of a year-long ethnographic study in a collaborative year 3 classroom. Data sources were observation of activity, interviews with students and their parents, and reflections of students, teacher/researcher and author. Together these created a social situation of research similar to that proposed by González Rey and Martinez.The cases explore each student’s changes in subjective configurations as they generated different subjective senses through ongoing experiences in the collaborative classroom. New subjective configurations and motivation arose as a result of tensions, contradictions and overlapping moments between each student’s social and individual worlds.