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Re-conceptualizing Emotion and Motivation to Learn in Classroom Contexts

Abstract

To better inform and improve classroom teaching and learning, now more than ever before, educational researchers need to effectively and efficiently describe essential components of positive learning environments. In this article, we discuss how our research findings about motivation in classrooms have led to a closer examination of emotions. We describe how motivation theories such as Academic Risk Taking, Flow Theory, and Goal Theory have helped us better understand emotions in our classroom research. Our findings suggest that engaging students in learning requires consistently positive emotional experiences, which contribute to a classroom climate that forms the foundation for teacher–student relationships and interactions necessary for motivation to learn. We conclude that we need to integrate emotion, motivation, and cognition theoretically and methodologically to move our research forward. New theories and methods, even new forms of intellectual discourse, are required. Therefore, we end this article by beginning a discussion of new directions for conceptualizing and researching classrooms in ways that will involve examining the emotions of students and teachers.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The ideas in this paragraph represent an innovative cognitive view of emotion, cognition, and motivation as expressed in an interview with Michael Wapner published in Baars (1986).

  2. 2.

    “Thin-slicing” is a term used in the sciences to describe a cross-sectional sampling method. Gladwell (2005) has popularly defined it as “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behaviors based on a very narrow slice of experience” (p. 23). We use the term to denote a researcher’s ability to determine the most significant constructs within a complex context for understanding and predicting human perceptions and behaviors.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Lisa Linnenbrink, Susan Nolan, and two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and feedback on the revision of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Debra K. Meyer.

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An earlier version of this article was originally presented in E. A. Linnenbrink (Chair) Reflections on Emotion Research: The Theoretical Integration of Affect, Motivation, and Cognition. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 2005, Montreal.

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Meyer, D.K., Turner, J.C. Re-conceptualizing Emotion and Motivation to Learn in Classroom Contexts. Educ Psychol Rev 18, 377–390 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-006-9032-1

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Keywords

  • Academicrisktaking
  • Flowtheory
  • Goaltheory