The Expectancy-value Theory of Motivation




According to the “expectancy-value theory” a learner’s motivation is determined by how much they value the goal, and whether they expect to succeed.  The motivation is given by the following formula:

Text Box: Value   The value of the learning to the learnerText Box: MotivationText Box:  Expectancy  The extent to which the learner expects success in the learning =    X    



Value and expectancy are said to multiply not add (Feather 1982).  This means that if a student gives their course an ‘expectancy’ score of zero, then motivation is zero however large the ‘value’ score.  Similarly motivation is zero if they score ‘value’ as zero however high their ‘expectancy’ score.

How would your students score value and expectations of success?  Why not ask them?!  Get them to score both value and expectation of success on a scale of zero to one, one being the maximum score.  You can then multiply to find their motivation score. 

Low value score?
So sell the value of your lesson, subject, and course to your learners.

Some learners come from families or cultures that do not value education.  If no-one in a learner’s family has a job, or some other advantage out of education then that family may not value education for their children.  We need to ‘sell’ the value of our courses to our students.

You can ‘sell’ the value of your lesson by setting clear goals with a persuasive purpose.  Much the same can be said of your subjects and courses.

Low success score?
So make use of role models.
Talk to students about students in past years who have gone on to be successful, or better still get these past students to come to the class and talk to them.  Stress that the achievement of these role models was not exceptional when they arrived.

So make sure that tasks allow students to gain early success

Make sure there is a mixture of mastery and developmental tasks for students.  (See the handout on Bloom’s Taxonomy.)

So arrange for them to get an early qualification or certificate

So arrange for the students to gain an intermediary qualification very early on in the course.  This could be a nationally accepted qualification like a first aid certificate, or it could be a college certificate.