Social & Motivational
Factors In Learning

Social & Motivational Factors In Learning

Educational researchers and practitioners have long recognized that knowledge acquisition and use, both inside and outside the classroom, are strongly influenced by the social context in which learning occurs. In particular, this context often has powerful effects on motivation to learn. Early LRDC research in this domain focused on such diverse topics as teacher-student interactions, social comparison and help-seeking in classrooms, social dynamics of desegregated schools, effects of technology on classroom interactions, and educational consequences of instructional grouping and peer tutoring.

Today, LRDC researchers are engaged in several lines of work designed to clarify the impact of social and motivational factors on learning and performance. This work is eclectic in regard to the questions asked, the contexts studied, the methodologies employed, and the relative emphasis on theoretical and applied issues.

For example, using laboratory experiments, John Levine and Timothy Nokes-Malach are investigating the conditions under which disagreement and debate in small groups enhance participants' thinking and learning. Levine is also conducting experiments on group learning with a special focus on the conditions under which newcomers change the work practices of teams they enter. And Nokes-Malach is investigating how students' beliefs about the nature of intelligence affect their ability to profit from different forms of instruction.

This laboratory research is complemented by field research in a variety of settings, including automobile plants, schools, and science museums. For example, Frits Pil is studying various aspects of organizational learning, including where organizational knowledge originates, where it resides, and how it is transferred and leveraged within and across organizational boundaries. In addition, Christian Schunn and Kevin Crowley are examining the bidirectional relationship between early (in and out-of-school) science learning experiences and combinations of motivations and skills that lead to gradually increasing or decreasing long-term engagement with science in career choices and everyday use of science.

Looking forward, LRDC researchers are increasingly examining the conjoint relationship of cognitive and affective factors in learning (e.g., how motivations and social beliefs drive the use of particular cognitive strategies of learning; how social relationships between learners influence knowledge acquisition and use at the level of the individual and the group; how particular learning strategies produce learning-related affective experiences and attitudinal shifts).