Suggested Citation:
Small, R., Chauncey, S.,  McKenna, P. , . . .   (2010). Motivation at a Glance: An ISchool Collaborative.  Retrieved from http://sites.google.com/site/motivationataglanceischool/...  (... is link to the theory)

YouTube Video

The goal of Motivation at a Glance is to document theories of motivation, particularly those theories which address learning, education, and information processing, in an effort to identify common threads and concepts which together provide a robust picture and insight into the factors which arouse our desires and influence our behaviors. 

Edward L. Deci addresses these factors in his book, Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Motivation (1995). Daniel Pink tackles the question in, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009). The insights shared by Mr. Pink are based on the work of Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination Theory.

An effort to find common threads among theories of motivation, is addressed by Piers Steel,  in Integrating Theories of Motivation (2006), "...our understanding of behavior has been hindered by the very extent of our efforts. There is a superabundance of motivational theories. Not only does each field have its particular interpretation, but there are ample subdivisions within each discipline." (2006: 789)  Steel offers a case for integration of theories and suggests that, "A common theme across the disparate disciplines of decision making and motivation is the desire for more comprehensive and integrated theories." (2006: 890)

Our effort to identify theories, share background knowledge, and compile key references for each theory has proven to be a monumental task. Clearly, documenting each theory is insufficient if we wish to make relationships amongst theories explicit. To achieve this goal, we are creating mind-maps. Current maps will certainly undergo significant revisions as we address each theory. We share our under-construction, in-process maps here for your review:


YouTube Video

Rosemary Luckin in Re-designing Learning Contexts (2010), notes that: "The term 'motivation' is subject to a variety of definitions and approaches, Bergin et al, (1993), for example , define the term 'motivation' as: 'The physiological process involved in the direction, vigor, and persistence of behavior'. Ryan and Deci (2000) define motivation as 'reason for action' and suggest two aspects of motivation: one is quantitative and underpins the way we talk about the strength of a learner’s motivation; the other is qualitative, and describes the orientation of the process." In addition, theories approach motivation from different viewpoints. "There are theories that draw the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000), theories that are concerned with sociocognitive constructs, such as expectancy-value theory (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000) and self-efficacy (Zimmerman, 2000), and there are achievement goal theories that identify the influence of person's learning goals on the way that they manage their learning interactions." (Ames, 1992; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Meece, 1991).


This project began as an independent study with Dr. Ruth Small, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University:  Develop a bibliography of theories of motivation along with citable notes for selected articles. For each theory, 8-10+ resources in the field of education and information studies were identified. A culminating project will be a synthesis or summary of what was learned and how it might apply to my research and dissertation. Mind maps (Ability & Achievement and Task Value) for different aspects of the theories are in process. During the course of the study we enlisted the help of ExecDoc student Pat McKenna who concentrated her efforts on several theories including interest and curiosity. One of Dr. Ruth's students, Kristen Link, MSLIS, contributed her work for the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Theory of Motivation. Dr. Ruth will invite her IST 617 graduate students to contribute to the site as part of their course work. Per Dr. Ruth's suggestion, we are building a data collection which will be used to interview theory experts. My own work on the site will continue beyond the completion of this independent study as part of my research focus. 88 theories have been identified.


Theory Summary
  • Theory name, variables, domains in which theory is used, author(s) of theory, background, and resources list (articles, books etc.)
Citable Notes Spreadsheet (articles, books, dissertations, website etc.)
  • Citation
  • Brief Summary
  • Arguments and Findings
  • Terms and Definitions
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Methodologies
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations


Alexander, P, & Zimmerman, B. (2000). Self-efficacy: An essential motive to learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 82.

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of educational psychology, 84(3), 261.

Bergin, D A, Ford, M E, & Hess, R D. (1993). Patterns of motivation and social behavior associated with microcomputer use of young children. Journal of educational psychology,  85(3), 437.

Deci, Edward L. (1995). Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Motivation . NY: Penguin Books.

Dweck, C S, & Leggett, E L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological review, 95(2), 256.

Luckin, Rosemary. (2010). Re-designing learning contexts: Technology Rich, Learner-Centred Ecologies. NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Meece, J. L. (1991). The classroom context and students' motivational goals. In Maehr, M. L. & Pintrich, P. (eds.), Advances in Motivation and Achievement: Volume 7 (pp. 261-85). Greenwich, CT, JAI.

Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. NY: Riverhead Books.

Ryan, R M, & Deci, E L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, , 54-67.

Steel, P, & Konig, C J. (2006). Integrating theories of motivation. The Academy of Management Review, 31(4), 889.

Wigfield, A, & Eccles, J S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, , 68-81.


Professor Ruth Small, PhD.
Dr. Sarah A. Chauncey, DPS-IM
Dr. Patricia McKenna, DPS-IM

School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College
  • Brandie Doyle
  • Allison Steele
School of Information Studies
Syracuse University

  • Bonny Anderson
  • Corinne Araki
  • Dawn Bovasso
  • Michael Campos
  • Gina Chen
  • Leopold De Sousa
  • Michael DiBello
  • Jason Hallahan
  • Jason Kielbasa
  • Sudharshan Krishnan
  • Kristen Link
  • Catherine Medeot
  • Brian Moritz
  • Norma Palomino
  • Brandon Priddy
  • Jessica Snapke
  • John Stinnett
  • Alice Stokes
  • Chabha Tepe
  • Mary Todd
  • Dimple Vadgama
  • Graham Warner
  • LaToya Welch
  • Anna Ching-Yu Wong



TED Videos
  • Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on TED.com (Rewards don't work for complex tasks. Pink says what is important .. Autonomy, Master and Purpose, he concentrates on Autonomy in this talk.) Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't:
    Click Here to View

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Flow | Video on TED.com Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfillment and the notion of "flow" -- a state of heightened focus and immersion in act.
    Click Here to View

  • Nancy Etcoff on the surprising science of happiness | Video on TED.com Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness -- the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it's untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies.
    Click Here to View

  • Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do | Video on TED.comTony Robbins discusses the "invisible forces" that motivate everyone's actions -- and high-fives Al Gore in the front row.
    Click Here to View

  • Stuart Brown Says Play Is More than Just Fun | Video on TED.com
    Click Here to View

Subpages (1): Notes from Collaborators