The ebb and flow of learning motivation: The differentiated impact of the implicit theory of intelligence on learning behaviors

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Abstract

Motivating employees to initiate, and continue to engage in, both formal and informal learning is a key challenge within human resources development (HRD). Research on the implicit theory of intelligence lends insight into this challenge by showing almost exclusively positive effects of having an incremental theory, wherein individuals associate ability with effort, on the motivation to learn. However, we propose that the motivation to learn may ebb and flow throughout the process of learning, and that the impact of the implicit theory of intelligence may be different for different learning behaviors. This study experimentally examines the differentiated effect of the implicit theory intelligence on five key learning behaviors that are required to develop new skills. They are taking on a challenge, paying attention to new information, elaborating on that information, practice with feedback, and reflection. Using data from an experimental study of 511 managers in the United States and direct measures of each of the five learning behaviors, this study provides evidence that priming participants to associate effort with ability increases the likelihood that they will set challenging goals and practice with feedback, but makes them less likely to reflect. These findings provide insight for how HRD professionals can more purposefully construct learning interventions to account for multiple behaviors and changes in motivation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Resource Development Quarterly
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • adult learning
  • critical reflection
  • employee development
  • evidence-based HRD
  • informal learning
  • learning activities/methods
  • motivation to learn
  • self-directed learning
  • workplace learning

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