Editor’s note: Wondering what’s happening in the classroom at Colgate? Here’s a real-time glimpse into academic life on campus — a syllabus from a course underway this semester.
The energy behind all of our actions is motivation of one form or another. The reasons why we eat what we do, the reasons that most of us choose to work most days, and the reasons that some of us play sports are all topics of interest to psychologists studying human motivation. This course will begin by examining basic biological motives, such as hunger and sex, and progress toward the study of more complex motivational phenomena including striving for achievement, curiosity, and falling in love. By drawing from physiological, cognitive, social, and personality psychology, this seminar will provide an opportunity to examine some of the most interesting issues in psychology from diverse perspectives.
Students are responsible for exploring their own special topics — a narrow problem that they find personally interesting. Students will review at least five scholarly articles, and may also refer to trade books, popular media articles, and video materials. They are responsible for writing a paper and leading a class discussion of the topic.
Because this course is an upper-level seminar, the reading material is challenging, varied, and extensive. The readings are aimed to provide a stimulating review of the motivation literature, and class time is devoted to exploring personal interests, experiences, and insights. The main text, Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental by Lambert Deckers, provides an overview of the human motivation literature.
The professor says:
“Human Motivation is my favorite course to teach. It is my opportunity to discuss the latest research with bright young people who are thinking about motivation for the first time. They often have insights that give me new energy for the work that I do.
“I aim to have my students experience some of the key insights that have emerged from the literature as they work toward their own personally important goals. For example, the course takes a student-centered perspective, which encourages students to take a great deal of initiative and shape the direction of their own learning. In doing so, students gain a sense of the motivational power of autonomy and understand why it is central to theories of psychological needs.”