Linking University Students’ Willingness to Learn to Their Recollections of Motivation at Secondary School
This study investigated the role of recollected school-based motivation on university students’ willingness to use new learning opportunities. Following Eccles’ expectancy-value theory, willingness to learn was conceptualized as task value, which has been found to predict task choice in previous empirical studies. Based on three motivational theories, we suggest two broad motivational dimensions for an economic description of motivational orientations, inward and outward, that should differentially predict the formation of task value. German university students (N = 1580) were asked about their task value for receiving their instructions in English as a foreign language at university and, retrospectively, their motivation in English language class at secondary school. Principal components analysis and confirmatory factor analyses of motivational variables yielded a two-factor solution supporting the differentiation between inward and outward motivational orientation. Inward motivational orientation at school was positively linked to students’ task value in adulthood, even if the individual’s self-concept of ability was controlled. The effects of outward motivation were rather small and tended to be counterproductive. Our findings suggest a complex interplay between past and present motivation and self-concept of ability underlying one’s willingness to learn and to participate in education.