Vol. 41, No. 1 (Winter 2005)

This full-text article is provided as a member service of the Council on Social Work Education.

Achievement Motivation and Outcome in Social Work Field Education

Anne E. Fortune
University at Albany

Mingun Lee
University at Albany

Alonzo Cavazos
University of Texas-Pan American

For this study, 188 students from 4 social work programs completed a questionnaire about their motivation and performance in field practicum. Achievement motivation included task value, intrinsic motivation, perception of task difficulty, confidence, and self-efficacy. Students were more satisfied with field education and rated their social work skills higher if they valued what they learned in field (task value), took pleasure in field activities (intrinsic motivation) and had a greater sense of self-efficacy about field tasks. However, achievement motivation was unrelated to field instructor evaluation of student skills. Discussion includes suggestions for increasing student achievement motivation.

STUDENT PERFORMANCE in field practicum is critical because the setting and the skills directly represent the real world of practice for which the student is preparing. Although many factors influence student performance (Alperin, 1998; Fortune, 2001; Knight, 2001; Regehr, Regehr, Leeson, & Fusco, 2002), student motivation may be particularly important because it can be assessed and changed. If motivation is related to student performance in field, it is possible to predict who will do well and to provide interventions to improve motivation. This study looks at achievement motivation, students’ own reports of their skills, their satisfaction with field, and their field instructors’ evaluations of their skills.


Motivational Factors Related to Student Performance

Individuals with high motivation to achieve are more likely to succeed in school and in careers. One approach to investigating achievement motivation is expectancy-value theory, which suggests several important determinants of achievement: the value placed on the task to be done, the motivation or desire to accomplish the task, perception of the difficulty of the task, and confidence in one’s ability to accomplish the task (Eccles, 1983; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996; Wig- field, 1994a). These determinants of achievement are task-specific, that is, a social work student may be highly motivated to achieve in field practicum, but not in research class. Indicators of expectancy-value have been associated with achievement in many different arenas, such as elementary school, college, business, and academe (Spence & Helmreich, 1983; Wigfield, 1994a, 1994b; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992).

Value of a task to an individual includes the importance of doing well on the task (attainment value), the usefulness of the task for future goals (utility value), and what must be given up to engage in the task (cost value) (Eccles, 1983; Wigfield, 1994a). The value of a task affects which task is chosen and which is avoided (Wigfield & Eccles, 1992), as well as the individual’s success at the task (Eccles, 1983; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996).

Intrinsic motivation is motivation driven by internal interest, desire to engage in an activity for its own sake, or pleasure in doing it for its own sake (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996). Intrinsic motivation plays an important role in the educational process, facilitating learning and achievement. Difficulty is the individual’s perception of difficulty of a specific task, while confidence is the individual’s self-assessment of his or her competency to complete a specific task. Both difficulty and confidence affect a student’s overall expectancy or confidence of success in completing a task (Eccles, 1983; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996).

Thus, under expectancy-value theories, a social work student may value an assignment in field practicum because it seems important for a practice career (value). The student may be motivated to accomplish a task because he or she gets pleasure from working with clients (intrinsic motivation). The student selects assignments that seem challenging but manageable (difficulty) and that he or she is confident can be learned (confidence).

Another approach to motivation that focuses more explicitly on self-perception of ability is self-efficacy, defined as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 2). Self-efficacy includes the belief that one can do something and that by doing so one can achieve a desired outcome. Unlike self-confidence, self-efficacy includes the idea that executing the action will have the desired result. Self-efficacy is related to whether a person will attempt something, how much effort is expended, and how long he or she works on a task. Self-efficacy, which is specific to a particular task, predicts future behavior and outcomes in diverse areas such as general academic performance, professional skill development, athletic performance, health behaviors, and career attainment (Bishop & Bieschke, 1998; Hackett & Betz, 1995; Holden, 1991; Resnick, 2002; Wise & Trunnell, 2001; Zimmerman, 2000).

Relation of Motivation to Social Work Skills

Both expectancy-value and self-efficacy formulations of achievement motivation have been widely investigated in other areas of education. In human service disciplines such as psychology, nursing, and therapeutic recreation, the research has focused on interventions to increase student self-efficacy for counseling (Jackson, 2002; Laschinger, McWilliam, & Weston, 1999; Munson, Zoerink, & Stadulis, 1986; Plourde, 2002; Urbani et al., 2002). In social work, Gary Holden and colleagues have developed social work self-efficacy measures in several areas, including efficacy for hospital social work, research, evaluation, and generalist social work practice (Holden, Meenaghan, Anastas, & Metrey, 2002). However, the link between achievement motivation and achievement has rarely been investigated in the helping disciplines, including social work. One study, in career counseling, found mixed and unexpected associations of student–counselor self-efficacy and client outcomes (Heppner, Multon, Gysbers, Ellis, & Zook, 1998). Thus, based on research in related areas, it is reasonable to expect that achievement motivation and achievement are associated in social work, but there is as yet little evidence.

In an earlier study, the authors examined expectancy-value concepts of achievement motivation and social work students’ self-reported skills in field practica (Kaye & Fortune, 2003). We found that students reported greater skill if they saw field tasks as less difficult, had greater intrinsic motivation, and had more confidence in their ability to perform field tasks. Value of what was to be learned was not associated with skill. This study is a partial replication of the previous study. It examines the same expectancy- value concepts—intrinsic motivation, difficulty, confidence, and value—and adds Bandura’s notion of self-efficacy. In addition, it adds to the outcome measures by including not only students’ self-report of their social work skills, but also their satisfaction and the evaluations of their field instructors. It also engages a broader range of students, including both BSW and MSW students.


Based on the literature reviewed, we expected a positive association between the outcome measures and value, intrinsic motivation, confidence and self-efficacy and a negative association between outcome and difficulty. Specifically, we hypothesized that student self-rating of skills, satisfaction with field practicum, and field instructor evaluations would be greater if:

• value of the task is higher,
• intrinsic motivation is higher,
• perception of difficulty is lower,
• the student is more confident in his/her ability to perform, and
• self-efficacy for field instruction tasks is higher.

Because achievement motivation is related to performance in previous studies, we expected that these aspects of motivation would be related to both students’ and field instructors’ evaluations of the students’ skills. We included satisfaction because we thought students would enjoy themselves more if they were motivated, and because satisfaction attracts students to learning situations and motivates them to perform (Cimino, Cimino, Nuehring, Raybin, & Wisler-Waldock, 1982; Fortune & Kaye, 2002; Kissman & Tran, 1990).



The participants included students from four social work programs: the University at Albany MSW program, Marywood University MSW program, the University at Albany BSW program, and the University of Texas–Pan American BSW program. A total of 190 students completed the end-of-semester questionnaire. As will be described, two were excluded from the analysis because their responses were statistical outliers. The 188 remaining students were predominantly women (84%, n=158), and full-time students (65%, n=122). Age ranged from 21 years to 56 years with an average age of 31.6 years (SD=8.9). The students were predominantly Caucasian (71%, n=133) with some African American (4%, n=8) and Hispanic students (18%, n=34); most of the Hispanic students were from University of Texas–Pan American. Two thirds (n=126)were full-time students, but nearly half of Marywood respondents were part-time (46%, n=18). Overall, the characteristics of the students were consistent with social work students nationally (Lennon, 2001).


We recruited students at the beginning of their required field practicum through announcements in classes or flyers in their mailboxes, or both. Students completed questionnaires about the practicum at several points during the practicum. The data for this study were from the last questionnaire, a 16- page questionnaire given near the end of their practicum. At Albany and Marywood, the questionnaire was handed out 3–6 weeks before the ending of a 2-semester concurrent practicum. At University of Texas–Pan American, it was given out 2 weeks before ending of a 1-semester block practicum. The questionnaire included measures of motivation, self-rating of social work skills, and satisfaction with field, as well as other questions about student experiences while in field practicum. The questionnaires were handed out in class or placed in student mailboxes. Students completed them at their leisure, returning them to the mailbox of the respective faculty member. Data were collected in spring 2001 except for one cohort at Albany, whose data were collected in spring 2000.

In addition, at initial recruitment at Albany and University of Texas–Pan American, students gave permission for access to their field instructors’ evaluations of their performance. Marywood did not participate in this phase of the study. Once field evaluations were recorded, the link between student and his or her code number was destroyed. The procedures for protection of human subjects were approved by the Institutional Review Boards of all three universities.


Expectancy-value concepts of achievement motivation. Following expectancy-value theory, items had to be specific for the task of learning in field practicum. We used the same items that had been created for the first study. Using a Likert-type scale, students reported how much they agreed or disagreed with each item over the past 2 weeks (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree). Some items were re-coded so higher scores always indicate more of a property.

The first concept, value of what is to be learned, was the mean of three items: “I am frequently asked to learn things that are of little value to me”; “my field assignments are interesting and useful”; and “what I am currently learning in my field placement is important to becoming a good social worker.” The internal consistency for value was adequate (Chronbach’s alpha=.72). Student perception of value was moderate (M=3.34, SD=.59, on the 5-point scale). The second concept, intrinsic motivation, consisted of a single item, “I enjoy the process of learning in the field.” Intrinsic motivation was high with much variability (M=4.32, SD=.99). The third concept, difficulty of the task, also consisted of one item, “I have difficulty doing what is asked in the field placement.” Perception of difficulty was low, but with much variability (M=1.55, SD=.94). Neither motivation nor difficulty have alphas because they are one-item constructs. Confidence in one’s ability to complete the task was three items: “for the most part, I am confident that I can perform successfully in field”; “I often think I will never learn to be a good social worker”; and “it is dif- ficult for me to master the skills needed in the field.” The internal consistency for confidence was slightly below the desirable range with an alpha of .68. Confidence was below the midpoint of the scale (M=2.70, SD=.48).

Self-efficacy. Self-efficacy was measured with a scale the authors developed according to Bandura’s (1997) guideline for self-efficacy scales, the Social Work Skills Self-Efficacy Scale. Like motivation, self-efficacy is task specific. Students responded to a stem, “How confident are you that you can…” Responses were reported on an 11-point scale from 0, 10, 20, … to 100, anchored 0 cannot do at all and 100 certain can do it. Students rated 43 items derived from a review of research on social workers’ on-the-job activities and on the social work baccalaureate and master’s curriculum (Fortune, 1994). The self-efficacy scale had excellent internal consistency (alpha=.85) and beginning evidence of reliability and criterion validity (Fortune, Kaye, Holden, & Cavazos, 2002). We used the mean of items. Self-efficacy was moderate (M=79.75, SD=14.14, on the 100- point scale).

Outcome Measures

Satisfaction with field education. For student satisfaction with field education, students rated their satisfaction with their field agency, field instructor, and field learning (alpha=.86). Responses were on 5-point scales from 1=completely dissatisfied to 6=completely satisfied. We used the mean of the three items. Students were moderately satisfied with field education (M=4.02, SD=1.01).

Self-rating of social work skills. Each student rated his or her own social work skills on 6 broad items: student as learner; development of professional attitudes, values and ethics; knowledge and skills for agency-based work; communication skills; assessment skills; and intervention skills. Responses were on a 5- point scale with 1=unacceptable, 2=needs improvement, 3=satisfactory, 4=very good, and 5=outstanding. The internal consistency was moderate with an alpha of .72. Again, we used the mean of items. Students rated their skills slightly above satisfactory (M=3.33, SD=.61 on the 5-point scale).

Field instructor evaluation. The field instructors’ evaluations at the end of the practicum were available for students at Albany and University of Texas–Pan American. The evaluation form was different for graduate and undergraduate students. In each program, the field instructor rated the student on specific skills. The undergraduate evaluations contained 17 items, the Albany 1st-year (generalist) MSW evaluation included 112 skills, while the 2nd-year Albany MSW evaluation included 123 skills. All evaluation forms used 5-point Likert-like scales with 1 indicating the lowest score (unacceptable performance, no understanding, no ability to understand a skill) and 5 indicating the highest (outstanding, high degree of understanding, high ability). Field instructors rated the students quite high (M=4.40, SD=.45).

Statistical Analyses

To test the hypotheses, for each outcome measure, we first conducted Pearson’s correlations to determine direct relationships between motivation items and the outcome measure. We then used forced-entry ordinary least squares (OLS) multiple regression to determine the relationships when the effect of all variables was considered. Tests of multicollinearity indicated that it was acceptable to include all variables in each equation (modest correlations and tolerances of at least .65). The residuals and predicted variables from each regression were also analyzed to determine if the data met requirements for multiple regression. The analysis of studentized residuals indicated two outliers, or individuals with discrepant scores, on at least two dependent variables. These two individuals were dropped from the analyses. However, the distribution of residuals for each regression equation was still not perfectly normal, indicating some departure from the assumptions for multiple regression.


Satisfaction With Field

The Pearson’s correlations indicate significant relationships between students’ satisfaction with field and all motivation variables (Table 1). In the regression equation, task value, intrinsic motivation, difficulty, and self-efficacy were significant, with intrinsic motivation and task value the most important predictors (Table 2). Higher satisfaction with field was associated with greater task value, higher intrinsic motivation, less perceived difficulty, and higher self-efficacy. Only con- fidence in ability to complete tasks was not significant. Because self-efficacy and confi- dence are related to each other both theoretically and statistically, we conducted further analyses to see if self-efficacy suppressed a relationship between confidence and satisfaction. It did not: confidence was not significant when self-efficacy was omitted from the analysis, and the betas did not change when confidence was added to a regression equation with self-efficacy. The full regression equation with all variables accounted for 62% of variance in field satisfaction.

TABLE 1. Relation of Achievement Motivation to Outcome: Pearson’s Correlation r, One-Tailed Probability
TABLE 1. Relation of Achievement Motivation to Outcome: Pearson’s Correlation r, One-Tailed Probability

TABLE 2. Regression of Satisfaction With Field Education on Measures of Achievement Motivation
TABLE 2. Regression of Satisfaction With Field Education on Measures of Achievement Motivation

Self-Rated Social Work Skills

Students’ social work skills had significant correlations with task value, intrinsic motivation, difficulty of task, and self-efficacy (Table 1). In the regression equation, higher self-rating of skills was significantly associated with greater task value, greater intrinsic motivation, and greater self-efficacy (Table 3). Neither difficulty of task nor confidence was significant. The full equation explained 44% of the variance in student’s social work skills.

TABLE 3. Regression of Social Work Skills on Measures of Achievement Motivation
TABLE 3. Regression of Social Work Skills on Measures of Achievement Motivation

Field Instructor Evaluations

The field instructor evaluations were significantly correlated only with student confidence (Table 1). However, the multiple regression showed no significant relationships between field instructor’s evaluation and any item measuring student motivation (Table 4). The field instructor’s evaluation of student performance is not explained by concepts from theories of achievement motivation.

TABLE 4. Regression of Field Instructor Evaluation on Measures of Achievement Motivation
TABLE 4. Regression of Field Instructor Evaluation on Measures of Achievement Motivation


The hypothesis that achievement motivation is related to student outcomes in field practicum is partially upheld. Self-efficacy and several constructs from expectancy-value theory were associated with student satisfaction with field practicum and self-rated social work skills. However, student motivation was not associated with field instructor evaluations of student performance.

For students’ self-rated social work skills, students rated their social work skills better if they valued their tasks more, had greater intrinsic motivation, and higher self-efficacy. All three were quite important (betas between .26 and .35). Difficulty of tasks and confidence in ability to complete them were not related to social work skills. These results about students’ skills only partially replicates those in our earlier study (Kaye & Fortune, 2003). The differences in results—the importance of con- fidence and difficulty in the earlier study, the importance of value in the current study—may relate to the timing of the two studies in the course of students’ field practica. The first study took place approximately 7 weeks after the beginning of an 8-month practicum, while this study took place shortly before the end of the practicum. Several studies have shown differences in student self-ratings over time (Holden, Cuzzi, Rutter, Rosenberg, & Chernack, 1996; Plourde, 2002; Urbani et al., 2002; Williams, King, & Koob, 2002). It may be that students new to the practicum were daunted by tasks they thought were difficult, and they relied more on their sense of self-confidence. Students later in the practicum knew from experience that they could do tasks that seemed difficult initially. For value, tasks are valued more if a student has clear long-term goals as a context for understanding the relevance of those tasks (Miller, DeBacker, & Greene, 1999). Again, the students who were completing practicum may have clearer and more realistic career goals, and thus were better able to evaluate the value of the tasks they were learning.

For student satisfaction with field education, students were more satisfied if they valued their tasks in field more, had greater intrinsic motivation, saw less difficulty doing what was asked in field, and had a higher sense of self-efficacy regarding field tasks. Task value and intrinsic motivation were particularly important predictors of student’s satisfaction with field (betas of .35 and .47). Only confidence in their ability to complete the tasks was not related to satisfaction.

In this study, the same variables were the most important predictors of both satisfaction with field and social work skills: value of the task, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy. Students are more satisfied and rate their skills higher if they believe that what they are learning in field is important, take pleasure in field tasks, and believe they can execute social work skills to achieve an outcome. These results are consistent with research and theory about achievement motivation. Understanding the usefulness of learning tasks enhances intrinsic motivation (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002), and that pleasure should increase satisfaction. At the same time, seeing the value of tasks and intrinsic motivation are directly related to positive learning behaviors such as self-regulation and to achievement outcomes (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002), in this case, students’ self-rating of social work skills. Similarly, self-efficacy is related to achievement (Bandura, 1997), and presumably a positive assessment of one’s capability to produce a good outcome enhances one’s satisfaction with the situation.

However, contrary to the hypothesis, achievement motivation was not related to the evaluation of students by outside observers, their field instructors. No significant relationships were found between instructor evaluation and any facet of achievement motivation. This is very much contrary to research on achievement motivation in other fields, which has found motivation associated with achievement on objective behaviors as wide-ranging as academic grades, career achievement, and healthy behaviors (Holden, 1991; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Wigfield, 1994a). The lack of relationship may be due to problems with the outcome measure. Field instructor ratings of the students bore no relation to the students’ own rating of their skills (r=.06). Further, the analysis of residuals indicates the data are not fully suited for the regression statistical analysis. Field instructor evaluations tended to be on the high end of the scale, restricting the range, a problem encountered in other attempts to use instructor evaluations (Power & Bogo, 2002). As Bogo and colleagues note, pressures on field instructors during evaluation may limit the validity of the evaluations (Bogo, Regehr, Hughes, Power, & Globerman, 2002). On the other hand, the only study directly addressing field instructor evaluations suggests that those evaluations compare favorably to assessments by outside judges who listened to audiotapes of student practice (Reid, Bailey-Dempsey, & Viggiani, 1996).


In addition to potential limitations of the field instructor evaluations, the measures of value-expectancy concepts have not been validated. Such concepts are necessarily task-specific and value-expectancy concepts have not been applied to social work field performance until recently. In other motivation research, investigators commonly develop new items for specific tasks, and we have followed this tradition (see, for example, Jackson, 2002; Patrick, Hisley, & Kempler, 2000; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996; Vrugt, Oort, & Zeeberg, 2002). Nevertheless, as these concepts prove useful, the measures should be validated.

Another limitation is that the sample includes volunteers and is relatively small (188 students). An advantage is that the sample included four social work programs, both graduate and undergraduate, and from several states. Nevertheless, further research is needed to determine if the results are similar among other social work students. Finally, an issue in interpreting the results is that the direction of the causal relationship is unclear because most of the measures were student perceptions taken at the same time. We cannot tell, for example, if students rated their skills high because they were interested in field education, or if they were interested in field tasks because they thought they had the skills to do them.

Implications for Field Education

Despite the limitations, this study offers further evidence that achievement motivation is related to attainment of social work skills. Achievement motivation theories are useful because they suggest attributes that enhance student learning. While this study did not examine change in motivation, its results combined with other research suggest potential interventions to make the field practicum more satisfying and productive for students.

First, in terms of enhancing task value, the activities assigned to students should be meaningful and related to accomplishment of professional goals. Students value meaningful and challenging activities, and such activities increase intrinsic motivation (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Patrick et al., 2000). For example, most students are more motivated to work with clients than to review case reports or prepare mailings.

The relevance and value of an activity should be explained clearly. In social work, as elsewhere, understanding why something is done and how it is relevant are related to student satisfaction and perception of learning (Alperin, 1998; Fortune & Abramson, 1993; Knight, 2001). For example, students are more likely to complete process recordings and to value them if they understand the contribution of process recordings to their learning. It may also be helpful to link learning activities to students’ long-term career goals (Miller et al., 1999). For example, students who plan a clinical career may resist program evaluation tasks unless they understand the relevance of evaluation to funding for clinical services.

In addition, offering students a choice of learning activities allows them to select ones they value or find intrinsically motivating (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Patrick et al., 2000). Learning contracts used in many schools of social work include such negotiation of assignments (Fox & Zischka, 1989; Friedman & Neuman, 2001), often within an overall structure of competencies to be mastered. The process of negotiation also empowers students through mutual respect and accountability (Lemieux, 2001), which again increases intrinsic motivation.

Second, there are several ways to further enhance intrinsic motivation. Most straightforwardly, instructor enthusiasm is critically important in student motivation (Patrick et al., 2000). Field instructors are important role models, and their attitudes tell students what is worth learning. Even if an instructor is not excited about some aspect of the job, artificially generated enthusiasm can motivate the student.

Intrinsic motivation includes a contextual component—situational interest—as well as the more familiar and stable personal interest (Hidi, 1990; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002). Situational interest can be increased by manipulating the learning situation to “catch” and then “hold” the interest of learners (Mitchell, 1993). “Catch” factors include new and exciting tasks, for example, new interventions, intriguing cases, or collaboration with different colleagues, rather than repetition of similar experiences. “Hold” factors make content meaningful and involve students in the task, for example, through handson experience. In many senses, field practicum is ideal for creating situational interest, especially when compared to academic classes.

Intrinsic motivation is also affected by the student’s type of goal. Students whose goals are performance avoidant—driven by a fear of failure—are less motivated than those driven by competition or a pure desire to learn (Rawsthorne & Elliot, 1999). This suggests that instructors avoid situations that shame students, for example, denigrating their performances in front of colleagues. Feedback should not include social comparison (“John can run a group better than you”) although it may be useful to include normative comparison (“Students at this point in the practicum should be able to assess the group dynamics and make comments that will increase cohesion”).

Third, self-efficacy may be enhanced by addressing the sources of information people use in developing their sense of self-efficacy. Bandura (1997) suggests four processes: performing an activity, watching role models, verbal encouragement, and physiological feedback. Performance is, of course, central to “learning by doing” in social work. However, to increase self-efficacy (and achievement) requires successful performance—the perception of failure decreases self-efficacy (Miller et al., 1999; Resnick, 2002)—and so student learning opportunities should be chosen to maximize the likelihood of success (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002). For example, field instructors may initially select student cases with circumscribed problems, or have a student coordinate a work group whose members have previous successful experience working together.

The effects of performance may be enhanced by modeling skills early in the learning sequence, particularly for complex counseling skills (Miller et al., 1999; Wise & Trunnell, 2001). Students who can watch experienced practitioners conduct an assessment, for example, are more likely to perform well than those who do it themselves without a role model, especially if there are also guidelines for completing an assessment (Resnick, 2002; Wise & Trunnell, 2001). However, simply watching others is not particularly effective (Wise & Trunnell, 2001); students need to combine watching others with applying their skills.

Similarly, verbal encouragement is less effective by itself than if it occurs after a student has performed a skill (Wise & Trunnell, 2001). Immediate feedback is better than general exhortation or encouragement. Effective encouragement is individualized, accurate, tied to successful performance, and not effusive (Daniels & Larson, 2001; Jackson, 2002; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002). For example, field instructors might praise the timing of students’ interventions: “Your comment about goals refocused Charles without making him feel put down.” While such feedback should emphasize things students do well, not their errors (Daniels & Larson, 2001), it is also important to ensure accurate self-efficacy. Beginning students often overestimate their abilities (Holden et al., 1996; Urbani et al., 2002; Vrugt et al., 2002). Consequently, accurate assessment of student limitations should temper positive feedback so students may begin to understand the scope and complexity of professional tasks. For example, field instructors might add comments about the potential for more systemic interventions: “Although Charles felt included in the group, you could have helped the group take responsibility for the direction of the meeting.”

Physiological feedback includes emotional as well as physical sensations. Attention to physiological feedback, especially the emotional feedback, should be part of professional self-awareness. For example, physical sensations include a reinforcing glow of pleasure after task accomplishment or anxiety prior to dreaded activities. If physiological arousal is perceived by students as negative, instructors can reinterpret it as indicating a challenge to be mastered, a signal that a new learning opportunity is present.

Overall, the research on achievement motivation suggests that student motivation and thus performance can be increased by (1) increasing the value of an activity by offering choice among meaningful tasks and clarifying utility of the activity; (2) altering contextual factors and individual goals; and (3) emphasizing performance while modeling complex skills, providing appropriate targeted encouragement, and interpreting physiological cues. Most of these principles are familiar to social work education. Many are outlined in classic texts on supervision such as Bogo and Vayada (1998), Kadushin (1992) and Munson (1993). The importance of motivation and the various methods of enhancing it can be included easily in field instructor training.


This study suggests that achievement motivation is an important factor in students’ success in field practicum, at least from their own perspectives. Students who value what they are learning, take pleasure in what they are doing, and have greater self-efficacy about accomplishing it successfully, are more satisfied with their field education and report greater skill at social work tasks. Their achievement motivation— and self-ratings—are not, however, associated with field instructor evaluations of their skills.


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Accepted: 02/04.

Anne E. Fortune is professor, and Mingun Lee doctoral student, School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, Albany, NY. Alonzo Cavazos is associate professor, Department of Social Work, University of Texas–Pan American, Edinburg, TX.

Address correspondence to Anne E. Fortune, School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12222; email: rfortune@albany.edu.

The authors thank Kathryn Skinner, former director of field education, Marywood University, Scranton, PA; Bonita Sanchez, coordinator of field education, University at Albany; Laura Kaye, then doctoral assistant at the University at Albany; and the students who generously completed the questionnaires.

© by the Council on Social Work Education, Inc. All rights reserved.



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