University of Louisville

Poster Title

A Longitudinal Examination of the Relation between Children’s Spontaneous Verbalizations and the Development of Motivation

Institution

University of Louisville

Abstract

Motivation is broadly defined as being either mastery or performance-oriented. Masteryoriented individuals tend to view challenges with excitement, while performance-oriented individuals tend to avoid challenging situations. Understanding and identifying the origins of mastery-oriented motivation is particularly important, given that research has consistently shown this pattern to be related to academic achievement. It is difficult to examine these patterns in very young children who may otherwise be unable to communicate higher-level thought processes. Research has suggested that young children’s speech may provide insight into their thought processes, a highly useful source for studying children’s motivational processes. In the current study, 65 preschoolers’ motivation, helplessness, and verbalizations were assessed during a puzzle-challenge task. Data were collected at the beginning and end of the children’s school year to determine how motivation and helplessness change over time. At the beginning of the school year, performance-oriented children produced significantly more disengaged statements, taskappropriate strategies, and total verbalizations. Change in motivation orientation was significantly predicted by the number times children asked for help in the beginning of the school year. Specifically, fewer self-motivating expressions and more social prompts at the beginning of the school year characterized children who switched from mastery to performance. These results provide new evidence for the role of self-evaluative speech and social feedback for influencing motivation in children. The findings have important implications for designing interventions aimed at identifying and preventing helplessness at an early age.

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A Longitudinal Examination of the Relation between Children’s Spontaneous Verbalizations and the Development of Motivation

Motivation is broadly defined as being either mastery or performance-oriented. Masteryoriented individuals tend to view challenges with excitement, while performance-oriented individuals tend to avoid challenging situations. Understanding and identifying the origins of mastery-oriented motivation is particularly important, given that research has consistently shown this pattern to be related to academic achievement. It is difficult to examine these patterns in very young children who may otherwise be unable to communicate higher-level thought processes. Research has suggested that young children’s speech may provide insight into their thought processes, a highly useful source for studying children’s motivational processes. In the current study, 65 preschoolers’ motivation, helplessness, and verbalizations were assessed during a puzzle-challenge task. Data were collected at the beginning and end of the children’s school year to determine how motivation and helplessness change over time. At the beginning of the school year, performance-oriented children produced significantly more disengaged statements, taskappropriate strategies, and total verbalizations. Change in motivation orientation was significantly predicted by the number times children asked for help in the beginning of the school year. Specifically, fewer self-motivating expressions and more social prompts at the beginning of the school year characterized children who switched from mastery to performance. These results provide new evidence for the role of self-evaluative speech and social feedback for influencing motivation in children. The findings have important implications for designing interventions aimed at identifying and preventing helplessness at an early age.