Complex Social Ecologies and the Development of Academic Motivation
Educational Psychology Review
Although motivational theories agree that environmental factors (like interpersonal relationships and pedagogical practices) are crucial in shaping students’ motivational development, few comprehensive conceptualizations of motivational contexts have been proposed. Instead, individual theories tend to focus on the contextual antecedents of the specific self-processes each prioritizes (e.g., self-efficacy, achievement goals). This has produced a cloud of disparate contextual factors that practitioners and interventionists, trying to apply work from the field as a whole, can find fragmented and confusing. Drawing on bioecological, phenomenological, ecocultural, and situative models, we outline an overarching framework that views motivational contexts as complex dynamic multilevel social ecologies. We explore three ways such a framework can help create a more comprehensive and comprehensible picture of the contextual antecedents identified by current theories of motivation. First, we examine the complexity inherent in microsystems, like the classroom, and propose three strategies for identifying motivationally relevant features. Second, we focus on students’ multiple worlds or mesosystems and outline different ways they can be organized and operate to shape motivation. Third, we consider macrosystems and highlight how societal forces, organized in interlocking systems of risk and resources, create stratified and unequal niches that differentially support the motivation of students from diverse backgrounds. Consistent with other researchers, we argue that such overarching frameworks are both integrative and generative. They not only offer places for the range of factors already identified by motivational theories, but also suggest avenues for discovering additional factors and examining how they work together to shape student motivation and its development.
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Skinner, E. A., Kindermann, T. A., Vollet, J. W., & Rickert, N. P. (2022). Complex Social Ecologies and the Development of Academic Motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 1-37.