Utility Value

Utility value is how the task relates to future goals. While students may not enjoy an activity, they may value a later reward or outcome it produces (Wigfield, 1994). The activity must be integral to their vision of their future, or it must be instrumental to their pursuit of other goals. Because goals can play a key role in attaining later outcomes, educators and parents should help students see beyond the immediate activity to the long-term benefits it produces. Teachers need to be able to answer the common query, “Why do we have to study this stuff?” Research on gifted underachievers has demonstrated the importance of valuing academic and career goals on students’ eventual reversal of their underachievement. Peterson (2000) followed achieving and underachieving gifted high school students into college. She found gifted achievers developed early career direction and focus, suggesting that having aspirations and future goals may encourage academic achievement. Emerick (1992) reported that former underachievers were able to reverse their underachievement through the development of attainable goals that were both personally motivating and directly related to academic success. One way to increase the value of the task is to positively reinforce students for completing the task. Extrinsic motivation is the motive to complete an activity to receive an external reward or positive reinforcement that is external to the activity itself. Extrinsic motivators include rewards such as stickers, praise, grades, special privileges, prizes, money, material rewards, adult attention, or peer admiration. Teachers should use extrinsic motivators carefully, as Lepper’s overjustification hypothesis suggests that providing extrinsic rewards for an intrinsically motivating activity can decrease a person’s subsequent intrinsic motivation for that activity (Pintrich & Schunk, 1996).