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Perceived Value of Education and Impact on Engagement

Perceived Value of Education and Impact on Engagement.

The following is a section of a paper that I wrote on Expectancy Theory as it applied to student engagement and success. The paper reviewed individual values of students, the perceived value of education, and how these values impact the concept and quality of student engagement within the learning experience. Simply put – How do student beliefs and values predict performance and choice? I think it is an interesting view of the adult learner – from the perspective of the learner and what they bring to the classroom.  I have been reflecting on how this theory might impact my development of course work in an adult education environment.

Expectancy value theory holds that individuals choose behaviours based on the outcomes they expect and the values they place on those expected outcomes. The value they have for succeeding are important determinants of their motivation to perform different achievement tasks. (Wigfield, Eccles, 1992). For the purpose of this paper, the task will be to determine how student beliefs and values predict student performance and choice. The questions will address the character of the relationship between what students expect, what they engage in and what it applies to. As defined in the Canadian Council on Learning, November 2009, “this approach focuses on the learning and outcomes achieved by students, for instance, the value added as a result of the education process” (p.7).

Eccles and Wigfield (1983) defined the followng four components to expectancy value theory:

Attainment value is the value that an individual will attach to a particular task. If a student believes there is value in the activity the student will hold the environment in high esteem.

Intrinsic value is reflected in the satisfaction a student gets from engaging in the environment. The greater the intrinsic value the more likely the student will engage in the community.

Utility value is the perceived usefulness of the academic task. This utility value is usually tied to the perceived utility of the environment and the future goals of the student. Students may engage in high utility value even though there is low intrinsic value. Utility value is generally seen as extrinsic in nature.

Cost can be seen as the negative aspect of engagement. Cost to the student is seen as what a student must give up in order to participate in the co-curricular environment.

Eccles and Wigfield (1992) believe that students evaluate their choices in terms of all four components. Following this understanding, the community may be perceived as important and useful, but not interesting and not worth the time. Or, it could be seen as interesting and worth the time, but not important or useful.

Expectancy Theory focuses on the perceived goal, perceived value and the effect of the goal as key indicators of student choice, persistence effort, or quality of engagement. The Handbook of Educational Psychology (2006), speaks to these motivational constructs as playing a critical role in students learning and achievement within the academic context. Harper and Mayer (1998), state that research by Eccles and colleagues “indicate that when students value an academic task they are more likely to choose to engage in the task in the future” and Wigfield; Eccles (1992) state that values predict outcomes through enrollment in courses, expectancies, and achievement.


Alexander, P. A., & Winne, P. H. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of educational psychology (2nd ed.) Division 15 of the American Psychological Association.

Canadian Council on Learning. (2009). Canadian council on learning, “up to par: The challenge of demonstrating quality in Canadian post secondary education, “challenges in Canadian post-secondary education. Ottawa, Ontario:

Eccles, J. S., Adler, T., Futterman, R., Goff, S. B., Kaczala, C. M., Meece, J., & Midgley, C. (1983). Expectancies, values and academic behaviors. In J. T. In Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motives (). San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.



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