Why does Calvin have this motivational pattern?

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Obviously, Calvin can learn, but he is not motivated to learn in school. The subjects in which he has interest, Captain Napalm and Dinosaurs to name a few, he studies vigorously. So why isn’t he interested in school?


Emotion is the biggest player in Calvin’s interest patterns. Emotion functions to increase interest when it is associated with the topic of study or environment of study.
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Calvin says he hates school. According to emotional interest theory, this negative emotion with cause him to have very little interest in school.
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Then when he is punished for doing poorly, his negative emotions increase creating a vicious cycle resulting in even lower interest.
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Calvin also doesn’t care about school. This is likely part of why he hates it and has low interest.
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Calvin’s pessimistic outlook on life further inhibits his interest by assigning very little value to his school work.



Another factor in Calvin’s how interest is his lack of identification with the subjects taught in school. Identification impacts interest when the student identifies with a topic based on his/her group identity.
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Dinosaurs are something that is personally engaging to Calvin, even though he doesn’t “identify” as a dinosaur, he identifies as a person who likes dinosaurs and as such will study them intensely.
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When Calvin finds a topic that relates to himself, in this case himself as an inventor, he passionately pursues the topic to its finish. In short, he is interested. From the vocabulary he is using, we can see that he has a lot of complex knowledge about the brain and how electricity works, but he didn’t learn it in a classroom. He was individually interested and taught himself.


Another factor in interest in competence. Competence affects interest along the premise that if a person believes they are going to be competent at a domain, then they are more likely to have increased interest.
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In this strip, we see Calvin as Stupendous Man. As this alter ego, Calvin believes he can succeed and, subsequently, does.external image LzC2zfdFdfrtc2AzA8BSz3lEs7uu1c-qFDcu-C7Z87juszIXfFrQN8sIGKPi2AKdYsyKmwuR4c781raTiX-RL0S8pDsOjVNBdzE7F9YclW2q96xoUrLOmdVLxZ2DpeRBhHghIr0O
Whereas, in this strip, Calvin believes his assignment is impossible and doesn’t have any interest in researching to gain information. His lack of confidence leads to a lack of interest which leads to low achievement.

Calvin often times lacks interest because he is lost in fantasy. Fantasy can be used to engage students in learning, but Mrs.Wormwood does not foster his fantasies even though in the comic below Calvin can be seen trying to stay interested by turning numbers into dinosaurs.

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Calvin seems to struggle with material if it is presented in a strictly material way.

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Again calvin can be seen not paying attention because he is using fantasy to deal with his lack of interest in what is being taught.



Calvin in the next comic shows interest in two different ways. The first is Hands On learning. Calvin is digging outside and is very interested on what he is doing. In contrast, when Calvin is in the classroom simply sitting and listening he tends to struggle to show interest. This shows that when it comes to hands on activity calvin becomes interested very quickly. The other cause of interest theory is Content. Content develops interest in different people based off the specific topic being addressed. As is shown by multiple comic strips anything having to do with Dinosaurs clearly shows an increased interest as opposed to other content.
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Another cause of interest that can be seen is when Calvin sees the reward his friend Susie receives for her results of increased interest. external image kf3OcML_IUQMhnMhR-IASZHQcDpEQgOxovhWB2RMItvr-5MmfRCWhbMcjZacX1Dnkur7WC5n-vL3UypUoVTwSUdZ2vUciQ_Nuco_krOPyRd_gKDtM1slCEahFKafOu3k8qMfumi6


This is an example of the Modeling theory. Here Susie got a smiley face sticker because she did well due to her increased interest. In this manner she is being used as an example (or model) for Calvin because it should increase his want for a similar reward thus increasing his interest