Summary and reflection: Day 3 (EDN550)

This summary and reflection are part of my coursework for EDN550 Transition to Teaching, the initial intensive unit of the Graduate Diploma in Education at Murdoch University in 2018. This is the third of five such summaries and reflections.

Summaries and reflections: Day 1Day 2 • Day 3 • Day 4Day 5


  • Attribution theory, Bernard Weiner. Failure is due to internal/controllable or external/uncontrollable causes.
  • Work avoidance goals: hurried and doing the minimum, perfectionism and start/finish avoidance, excuses, apathy, willing distractibility, disruption and defiance.
  • Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic can be leveraged, intrinsic need to be developed.
  • Goal orientation: mastery goals (good), performance goals (bad). Need to help students set good goals deliberately, and avoid the negative automatic ones.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  • Encourage self-efficacy: offer reassurance and support resilience; teach success strategies and relaxation exercises (or provide breathing space in lesson plans).
  • Self-regulation (learning autonomy); safe social learning environment; positive relationships.
  • TARGET (Carol Ames): Task, Autonomy, Recognition, Grouping, Evaluation, Timing.
  • Psychology Applied to Teaching (Snowman et al) is not at 14th edition!
  • Views of motivation: behavioural (Skinner), social cognitive, cognitive development (Jean Piaget), humanist.
  • The important of self-efficacy: choice of learning goal, outcome expectations, attributions.
  • Learning goals students may choose: task mastery, performance-approach, performance-avoidance.
  • Cognitive development view of motivation: strive for equilibrium; master the environment.
  • High-need achievers prefer moderately challenging tasks, low-need achievers prefer very easy or very hard tasks.
  • Entity (intelligence is) vs. incremental beliefs (intelligence is developed).
  • Students with incremental beliefs tend to have mastery goals and are motivated to meaningfully learn and improve skills, students with entity beliefs tend to have performance goals and are motivated to get high grades and avoid failure.
  • Always try to improve the confidence of students.
  • Personal interest factors: culture, emotions, competence, relevance, prior knowledge, holes in knowledge.
  • Situational interest factors: hands-on activities, cognitive conflict or disequilibrium, working with others, observing influential models, well-written material, novel stimuli, games/puzzles.
  • Cognitive … about thinking; behavioural … about reward/punishment.
  • Give praise as positive reinforcement, but do so effectively. Use other (non-verbal) forms of positive reinforcement.
  • Characteristics of effective praise: long list on page 436 (Snowman et al).
  • Explicitly telling a student that they have the ability to succeed on a task … but make sure they really do.
  • Ability (in a subject) ≡ knowing how to form/use a learning strategy (for that subject).
  • Praise the process, not the result!
  • Make learning interesting with: activities, investigations, adventures, social interactions, usefulness.
  • Teachers should aim to fulfil Maslow’s needs 1–4. Students will seek self-actualisation only when the lower needs are met.
  • Self-perceptions: self-description, self-esteem, self-concept, self-efficacy.
  • Measures of academic self-concept ↔︎ school achievement: reciprocal effect.
  • Adaptive cognitive dimensions: self-efficacy, mastery orientation.
  • Adaptive behavioural dimensions: persistence, planning, task management.
  • Strategies for motivating in the classroom: long, long, long list in Looking in Classrooms (Good and Brophy).


I am personally familiar with the ‘perfectionist’ work avoidance goal. I want to do worthwhile things only and do them properly or not at all. But sometimes it can get in the way of finishing work ​or starting important work.

In this material, I was once again impressed by the depth of research and cognitive science involved. I found Weiner’s attribution theory put words to something I already had a general sense of. Whilst it may often be an oversimplification for any given student, I believe that I will learn to instantly recognise evidence of where students are attributing failure (e.g. seeing evidence of work avoidance goals), and then be able to apply appropriate strategies to them back on track.

I am a little unsure of how to help students set learning goals in mathematics. They don’t have a say in the content and sequence. But I think I understand goal orientation as not being about what they learn, but why students’ feel they are learning (mastery vs. performance). In China, I see lots of performance goal orientation, but that is also influenced by the stereotype (single story) of Chinese education.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs seems like a valid starting point for the ultimate goal of student self-efficacy. I provide a good classroom environment and teaching programme so that the first (lowest) four needs are met. Then, I encourage/support self-regulation (autonomy), optionally by following the TARGET framework. I can leverage extrinsic motivations for quick and short-term results ​while trying to reinforce incremental intelligence beliefs so that students develop intrinsic motivation and set mastery performance goals. That’s all the right words, but practically … I think my first act in the classroom is making sure the work I set is at the right level for the students, is 100% exactly about content they need to master, and that I stress—at the beginning, through the middle, and at the end—that I want students to understand. So, this can be perfectly complemented by giving continual encouragement to improve students’ confidence. Simultaneously, I can tell students that I believe that can do it, offer the right praise when they are doing the right thing, and make sure they hear the praise is for the process and their journey towards understanding and not for their presentation of correct answers. In mathematics, praising the process and not the result has special meaning. I can separate being good at mathematics from “knowing how to form/use a learning strategy”. Although they are not really separate, as being good at mathematics means the latter, it can at least help students to dispense with negative self-concept about mathematics and focus on critical/creative thinking that they (hopefully) believe they are capable of.

Hmmm… that doesn’t real well in hindsight and I realise that I was trying to articulate in general terms what is probably the everyday struggle of every mathematics teacher: convincing students that they can do mathematics. At least I have some (research-backed) language now to help me navigate that struggle myself.


  • Snowman, Jack, et al. “Motivation.” Psychology Applied to Teaching, John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2009, pp. 422–459.
  • “Strategies for motivating in the classroom” in: Good, Thomas L., and Jere E. Brophy. Looking in Classrooms. HarperCollins College Publ., 1991.
  • Kosnik, Clare Madott, and Clive Beck. “Classroom Organization and Community.” Teaching in a Nutshell: Navigating Your Teacher Education Program as a Student Teacher, Routledge, 2011, pp. 43–58.


These are personal notes and reflections. Portions of the summary are taken verbatim from the various lectures, presentations, readings and videos. I have not distinguished between what are my own ideas, what is my own writing (or paraphrasing), and what is taken from the source materials.