Expectancy-Value Theory

One of the theories of motivation that I think is most relevant is expectancy theory which posits that a person’s motivation is dependent on the expectation of reward. An extension of that theory is expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation (Eccles et al., 1983). A person’s expectations for success and the value placed in a particular task influences performance and persistence behaviors. Additionally, expectations and value are impacted by previous experiences. My master’s thesis is centered around this theory. The project seeks to examine how expectations for success and the value placed in education is affected by racial discrimination and parents’ preparation for bias messages, specifically for African American college students. Particularly, I wanted to know if being prepared for discrimination lessens the impact of racial discrimination on these outcomes.

Another project that I am working on involving expectancy-value is examining whether racial discrimination negatively impacts GPA through its negative effect on African American college students’ expectations. What both of the projects relate to is how racial discrimination can have a harmful effect on the academic motivation and performance of students and it is important to understand the way in which this can happen. By examining these pathways, it makes the task of alleviating these problems a little easier. Addressing these issues would help colleges to foster more supportive and productive environment for all students, particularly African American students. Teachers would also have to be aware of their implicit biases and how those biases influence the ways in which they treat students. Lower teacher expectations are one form of school based discrimination that scholars have examined in previous studies. If teachers do not have high expectations of their students, then the students would likely not have high expectations for themselves. This is particularly an issue if teacher expectations are influenced by the race of students. While racial discrimination can be an issue across different areas of the college experience, the classroom can be a good place to start in fixing this issue.


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