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Success or Failure as Motivation in Learning

December 20, 2012

Motivation is a key part of learning (Vockell, 2001) whether it is professional, non-professional, formal or informal. However under each aspect of learning the source of motivation can change. Many students are eager to learn but many also require their tutors to motivate them to learn (Davis 1999). Motivation is certainly not the only factor necessary in order for learning to take place; but without sufficient motivation, not much learning is likely to occur (Vockell, 2001).

Success and failure are also great motivators to learning. It is interesting to see that each plays a greater or lesser role depending on whether the learning is professional or non-professional.  It has been shown by research (Lepper 1989) that motivation can actually increases following failure for those striving towards the goal of success. On the other extreme failure avoiders tend to become less motivated following a set back. Failure avoiders prefer easier tasks as compared to success seekers who are more strongly motivated by tasks that have a higher level of complexity. Whereby failure avoiders tend to set goals that are either too easy or too difficult to attain, success seekers will set more realistic goals (Vockell, 2001).

Actively seeking knowledge about an aspect of your career is professional learning but where this is paired with self motivation and available learning resources can only result in success as it is actively sought. Therefore I surmise that professional self motivated learners can be considered as success seekers.

Learning for Success, Training against Failure

I consider self motivated professional learners as success seekers, I think it is important to consider professional learners who need to learn key information in order to be properly accredited for their role. This is an e-Learning context I am familiar with and I would consider this type of learning and as training. Stockley (2006) looks at the definitions between learning and training and defines training as:

“The conscious and planned process of transferring knowledge, skills and attitudes to others.”

Stockley (2006) notes key importance to the idea of transfer. Here we could consider transfer as the means of passing knowledge verbatim.

Stockley (2006) defines learning as:

“The processing and assimilation of what we hear, see or experience that alters or improves our knowledge, skills and attitudes.”

We assimilate learned knowledge to fit into our own world and in doing so it is somehow altered.

Professional training is something that is carried out as a group or as an individual and possibly at the expense of your employer either by the fees being paid or the time being allocated to carry out the training. Professional training is pertinent to the job the learner is doing. The information supplied will not deviate away from the point of making the individual better or more efficient at doing their job.

Self motivated professional learning is the choice of the individual and therefore can reach a deeper level of education (Price et al 2007, page 3). It may not be directly linked to the learners’ day role but may be critical in developing their career further in a direction they wish to pursue.

Stockley (2006) regards that the combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes forms behaviour. If someone trains us, or we learn something new or different, it is our behaviour that is affected. If our behaviour has changed then learning has occurred. Stockley (2006) believes that changed behaviour in the workplace is essential for corporate growth and when relative can make a real difference within an organisation.

Training is successful if learning occurs and therefore behaviour is changed.  In a familiar context this success is measured by the learner passing the summative assessment following a training course. Within the workplace this is measured by improved efficiency. For the learner we could assume that successful completion of training could lead to improved job prospects therefore trainees would use failure avoidance as motivation.


Atwere et al (2007) ‘A Professional development framework for e-Learning’ Available from: (accessed 8th December 2010)

Davis, B (1999) “Motivating Students”, Available from: (accessed 4th December 2010)

Digital Learning Asia (2007) conference: eAsia 2007, (accessed 5th December 2010).

EIfEL (2008)”European Institute for E-Learning”, Available from: (accessed 6th December 2010)

eLPCO (2008) “Research Center for e-Learning Professional Competency”, Available from: (accessed 7th December 2010).

Lepper, M.R. & Hodell, M. (1989). Intrinsic motivation in the classroom. In C. Ames & R. Ames, Research on Motivation in Education: Goals and Cognitions (Vol 3)

Neal, M. and Morgan, J. (2000) ‘The professionalization of everyone? A comparative study of the development of the professions in the United Kingdom and Germany’, European Sociological Review, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 9-26. Available from: (accessed 3rd December 2010).

New Zealand Ministry of Education (2009) Professional Development for Elearning: A Framework for the New Zealand Tertiary Education Sector. Available from: (accessed 5th December 2010)

Price, L., Richardson, J.T.E. and Jelfs, A. (2007) ‘Face-to-face versus online tutoring support in distance education’, Studies in Higher Education, vol.32, pp.1–20; also available online at login?url= 10.1080/ 03075070601004366 (accessed 8TH December 2010).

Ravet, S.(2008) “For an ePortfolio enabled architecture”, Available from: (accessed 6th December 2010)

Stefani, L. (2005) ‘PDP/CPD and e-portfolios: rising to the challenge of modelling good practice’ (online), Association for Learning Technology. Available from: (accessed 8th December 2010)

Stockley, D.(2006) “Is there a difference between training and learning? ”Available from: (accessed 4th December 2010)

Vockel, E. (2001) “Educational Psychology: A Practical Approach” (accessed 2 December 2010)

Warrior, B. (2002) ‘Reflections of an educational professional’ (online), Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education, vol. 1, no. 2. Available from: (accessed 2nd December 2010).

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