A TARGET Approach to Motivation
We all know how important motivation is when taking part in, or leading, an exercise programme! Motivation to keep exercising can be lost for various reasons and this can prevent us from reaching our fitness goals or if you’re a fitness professional, make it harder to fill your classes. As fitness instructors, it is therefore important to understand how you can create an environment that nurtures motivation.
Motivation towards a specific goal or task is the product of an individual’s own motivation and the environment in which they are carrying out the task. One of the most studied environmental conditions is the motivational climate and it is the motivational climate that we will look to target.
In order to change the motivational climate, we must first understand what it is. The motivational climate is how an individual or a group perceive success to be defined by a ‘significant other’ such as a fitness instructor, personal trainer or coach (Smoll et al. 2007). If a motivational climate focuses on winning, outperforming others and incorporates high levels of public evaluation and punishment, the climate is deemed to be a performance climate (Ames, 1992). The opposite of this is a mastery climate which is created when learning and mastery of skills are encouraged, personal progress is paramount, mistakes are considered part of the learning process and the participants are involved in decision making (Ames, 1992).
It has been found, in sporting environments, that the creation of a mastery environment is related to the development of adaptive behaviours such as increased effort, improved skill execution and increased levels of persistence (especially after experiencing setbacks) and negatively related to practise avoidance – clearly the behaviours that you would like to promote amongst your clients! Whereas performance climates are positively related to maladaptive behaviours such as practise avoidance (Lochbaum & Roberts 1993)
How can we create mastery climates?
There are thought to be six factors implemented by a person in authority which have an effect on the learner’s perceived motivational climate (Epstein, 1988). The six variables form part of a TARGET approach to creating a mastery environment. We have outlined what each factor is and how each one can be used to promote a mastery climate below:
The types of tasks that are set can have an effect on the motivational climate. It is important that coaches set challenging tasks, a variety of tasks and alter the difficulty of the tasks in relation to increases in ability.
When an autonomous social context (one that provides learners with choices and decision making responsibilities) is provided, the result is self-determined involvement and improvement. This shows that fitness instructors should try to provide their clients with a high level of involvement in the decision making process during a lesson or exercise programme in order to provide them with more authority over their own learning and development and promote a mastery climate.
Praise and rewards should be given to individuals privately and based on personal progress in relation to ability rather than progress in relation to other people. Rewarding in private is more likely to produce a perceived mastery climate than public reward which often results in comparisons being made.
If you group people into smaller groups within your classes, this should not be done based on ability levels. This reduces the opportunities for social comparison and uneven attention towards the groups with higher ability.
Evaluation of your clients should be based upon concepts that relate to skill mastery rather than performance. The participants should feel that they are being evaluated in regards to effort, persistence, skill acquisition and improvement.
It would appear as an obvious point that some individuals take longer to acquire or develop skills. However within an exercise context the time allocated for the acquisition of skills is often uniform across a whole group. In order to promote a mastery climate, it is important that the instructor is sympathetic to the individual needs of their clients and allows the appropriate time for them to develop their skills.