From skill to will: From learning to motivation

Of course, the process does not end with skill and knowledge acquisition. Research shows there is a cycle that operates such that learning (‘skill’) fosters subsequent motivation (‘will’) (Martin, 2007, 2009, 2010; Pintrich, 2000), as demonstrated in Figure 2. For example, self-belief is likely to be enhanced (or sustained) when students acquire academic knowledge and academic skill. Similarly, students who are learning tend to value school and school subjects more than students who are not learning. Moreover, when students feel on top of their learning, they tend to be less anxious and have a greater sense of control. In all these cases, learning has enhanced students’ academic motivation.


The learning process can be characterised as one in which students move from ‘will’ to ‘skill’. Educational and cognitive psychologies have contributed much to our understanding of how students learn and how to move them towards independent discoverers via teacher-led explicit and structured instruction. When students have academic will and skill, their educational journey is much more enjoyable and successful.

The author would like to thank the Australian Research Council for funding the research program informing this article and Professor John Sweller for comments on an earlier draft.

The author can be contacted at [email protected] and from January 2014 at [email protected].


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Disclaimer: Published in InPsych on December 2013. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment. The information provided in InPsych does not replace obtaining appropriate professional and/or legal advice.

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