Child pages
  • Expectancy Case Study –Spring 2014
Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata



Team 3 - Expectancy Case – Spring 2014


The motivation of students is inherently one of the most profound challenges that instructors face within the educational system of the United States.  While educators possess little or no control over external circumstances, there is a critical role they can play in the classroom that can dramatically impact the level of motivation that students exhibit in learning new material.   The purpose of this case study evaluation is to provide a general understanding of student motivation from a psychological perspective, specifically applying the expectancy theory of motivation the classroom environment.

Case Scenario

Mr. Smith is realizing more and more that his students are less motivated to learn the topics being taught and seem to be more interested in just exerting the minimum effort necessary to pass the course.  Mr. Smith knows that just passing classes with an average grade of “C” is not adequate in today’s demanding work environments, especially with unemployment as high as is has been in recent years.  Being a passionate teacher who takes pride in his work, Mr. Smith sets out to learn more about motivating his students to perform at a higher standard.

He first analyzes where the deficit in the students’ work is to find where the biggest issues lie. He realizes that his students have a low rate when completing assignments.  The poor assignment completion rate is affecting her(his?) students’ test scores and final grades in the course.  Mr. Smith assigns the work because he knows that the assignments will help reiterate the lessons learned in class that day and improve the scores on the tests but with students only doing the minimum amount of work to get by in the course, the assignments are usually do not get completed or are partially completed.

Mr. Smith decides to survey the students to find out why they are not motivated to perform the work. When he surveyed his students on why they did not do assignments or only partially completed the work, he was surprised to learn that they did not feel the amount of work and the time involved in completing the work, one to two hours, were worth the amount of points rewarded, five points per assignment.  They stated that the teacher gives at least a point or two for doing a little work and this amount of points is better than no points, plus they have to spend very little time on assignment for the minimum points.  The students do not feel the assignments help them perform better on the tests and they can still pass the course with minimum effort.

Analysis of student motivation using expectancy theory

Vroom’s (Year) VIE model of expectancy theory of motivation identifies three parts that when multiplied together create what is described as a motivational force that drives a person to accomplish certain tasks. In order to help motivate the students to do their assignment and perform at a higher standard, the teacher could use the elements from Vroom’s Expectancy theory to discover how to create a link between the student’s expectations of the course work and their values in order to motivate them to complete the work and improve their overall grades.

The three conditions of the expectancy theory that need to be met in order to make an individual feel motivated are expectancy, instrumentality and valence (CITE).  Students perceive the work as not valuable to their final grade for the time involved in completing it, so the three conditions of the expectancy are not being met and in turn the teacher is not getting the results she(he?) would like from her(his?) students.


The students do not feel the effort put forth to receive an A in the course is worth their performance.  They do not feel that doing well on assignments will correlate to higher test scores in turn increasing their final grade. They are under the impression that even if they spent an hour a night on assignments, their test score would not increase that significantly.  Vroom explains that expectancy is how much a person believes their effort will affect a future outcome (PSU WC, Year, L4 p. 4).  These students know that they can pass by doing minimal work.  They do not believe that this course will affect their future; therefore there is no need to exert much effort.  If Mr. Smith wants to get his student to perform at a higher standard, he must get each student to make the link between effort and performance.  He must alter the students’ perception of the class, by getting the student to realize that there is a future value in performing at a higher standard (Hancock, 1995).


Hancock (Year) found teachers could help students understand how their performance in the course is connected to desirable outcomes.  Teachers can explain and assure students of what types of rewards exist for them learning this material.  The students in Mr. Smith’s course are not making a connection between the course and a desirable outcome; therefore he must get the students to realize the relationship between performance and outcomes.


In accordance with expectancy theory each student has different values and views rewards differently.  To some student earning and “A” grade may be their primary reward; to others developing skills for future employment may be most important.  Teachers should assess each student’s differences and develop outcomes that match their desires and their motivation to learn will improve.

Applications of expectancy theory in the classroom

After researching expectancy theory of motivation Mr. Smith came up with some ways that he can incorporate these concepts into his teaching methods.   In particular, a research study conducted by Dawson R. Hancock (Year) on teacher behaviors that were in line with Vroom’s (Year) VIE model showed promising results and Mr. Smith plans to incorporate the following practices:


To help improve a students’ perception of their ability to learn the material and concepts being presented, Mr. Smith is going to explain to students what types of behaviors go along with learning such as reading, understanding the meaning behind the reading, and actively asking questions about the reading and various meanings (? ).  In addition to describing the behaviors, Mr. Smith will also articulate them by giving concrete examples of how these behaviors can be invoked by students taking extra time to complete assignments which will help them better understand the course material and excel on exams.  Mr. Smith is also going help students understand more about the how their efforts not only affect their grades in the course but also affect their future.   

Mr. Smith will create different assignment formats to keep students interested in the course and avoid them becoming complacent. He will break up large assignments into smaller steps helping to show students that big projects are able to be accomplished better by taking them one piece at a time and will increase point values that will make certain assignment more appealing to students.


Mr. Smith has realized through his research that he is not voicing his expectation to the students and that the students in his course do not fully understand how assignments affect their test (? ) and final grades.  He feels that because of this his students cannot make the connection between performance and outcomes, which is an important part of instrumentality.   To remedy this, Mr. Smith is going to incorporate more frequent and formal feedback to students on their overall progress in the course at least four times during the semester and give students feedback on all assignments.

Mr. Smith will also include a presentation on practical applications of the material and how it can effect on the job performance in the future.  He feels that this will help students to realize that their actions have consequences not only in the outcome of the course but in the future.

Mr. Smith will complete a grading rubric for each assignment and utilize its structure to assure grading is fair and equal.  This will ensure that students will know how assignments are scored and exactly what points are given for different parts of the assignment.


Mr. Smith will evaluate each student’s interest or purpose in studying a particular topic and will connect the learned skills to goals that are of value to students, individually.   He knows that a major aspect of VIE theory is that the individual needs to make the connection between what they do and what they get (PSU WC, Year, L4 p. 7).  By individually addressing the students, he can find out what they value and work towards a plan that will incorporate that in his course.

Results gain by applying the VIE theory:

Mr. Smith anticipates that he will see a large improvement in student motivation and learning as a result of incorporating expectancy theory in his teaching methods.  He expects to see initial results in terms of increased rate of assignment completion, and then eventually an increase in final grades.



Hancock, D. R. (1995).  What Teachers May Do to Influence Student Motivation: An Application of Expectancy Theory.  The Journal of General Education, 44(3), 171-179.   

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2014). Psych 484 Lesson 4: Expectancy Theory: Is there a link between my effort and what I want? Retrieved from






  • No labels