When I teach about motivation I often begin by asking people what motivates them. I encourage my students to be bold so I have heard it all. Sex almost always makes the list accompanied by a flourish of laughter. The motivational potential is not argued but the tension still hangs thick. The idea is made quite clear that for something to be motivating it has to have some sort of value even if that value is difficult to grasp or discuss. As research in education moves from things to be known to knowing as active participation with and within the context it is important that similarly research in motivation looks beyond the idea that motivation is something that is singularly carried around by any one individual.
As the ideas of knowing expand so to do the ideas surrounding what motivation and motivational research looks like (or needs to look like) in these ever more complex environments. When a researcher gets to a point where the basic tenants of their thinking about learning and knowing move beyond the individual it is of central importance that the assumptions held surrounding motivation do not reside in a place that can not by the very virtue of the existing assumptions coexist.
Motivation is an important construct that is just recently beginning to be looked at from a sociocultural perspective. In Hickey 2003 achievement motivation is looked at under the term engaged participation. What is engaged participation and what benefits does it hold beyond that of an individual view of motivation? These are big questions to which the answers are not known however they are of utmost importance. It follows however that the motivational theories related to a more situative view of motivation are less completely developed than the corresponding views of learning. When Hickey calls this "murky" he is not kidding. As I look across motivational research one thing becomes evident. Ideas of motivation being situated have existed for a long time. Motivation has often been tied to the context however much of this research treats these messy contextual factors as something outside of the focus of the research itself. This in light of the situative view of learning and knowing shows us that researchers have often seen the contextualized bonds between the target of the motivational research (often the individual) and the context in which the individual is currently participating (at various levels) ie engaged participation. So what I am saying is the messy parts of individually based motivation research may in fact point to the need for contextual and participatory structures to be viewed in relation to motivation from a situational perspective.
I hope to revisit this and other ideas related to my own thinking about motivation.