Theories of Motivation in Education: An Integrative Framework

Detlef Urhahne*, L. Wijnia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Several major theories have been established in research on motivation in education to describe, explain, and predict the direction, initiation, intensity, and persistence of learning behaviors. The most commonly cited theories of academic motivation include expectancy-value theory, social cognitive theory, self-determination theory, interest theory, achievement goal theory, and attribution theory. To gain a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences among these prominent theories, we present an integrative framework based on an action model (Heckhausen & Heckhausen, 2018). The basic model is deliberately parsimonious, consisting of six stages of action: the situation, the self, the goal, the action, the outcome, and the consequences. Motivational constructs from each major theory are related to these determinants in the course of action, mainly revealing differences and to a lesser
extent commonalities. In the integrative model, learning outcomes represent a typical indicator of goal-directed behavior. Associated recent meta-analyses demonstrate the empirical relationship between the motivational constructs of the six central theories and academic achievement. They provide evidence for the explanatory value of each theory for students’ learning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number45
Number of pages35
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2023


  • motivatie
  • Motivation
  • Academic achievement
  • Motivation to learn
  • Action model
  • Meta-analysis


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