April 2001

"Helping People Succeed"

Intentional Learning: Learning to Change the Brain

Purpose: Keep readers informed about learning orientation research and the application of learning theories, models, design, and technology to mass-customize and personalize learning. This whole-person approach highlights the importance of emotions (affective) and intentions (conative) on learning, in addition to social and cognitive aspects. This newsletter (online version) appears at: http://training.trainingplace.com/newsletter/apr2001.htm. The newsletter index appears at:http://training.trainingplace.com/newsletter/index.htm.










The special topic for this newsletter is CONATION. The purpose is to provide a historical review of previous research that explores the intricate relationships among various conative constructs hypothesized to affect learning and performance.

"The word "CONATION" refers to the act of striving, of focusing our attention and acting with a purpose. This term has a 200-year history in the literature of psychology. German and Scottish scholars in the late 1700s described the mind as having three capabilities or "faculties": cognition, which is knowing; affection, which is the ability to value things or people or ideas; and conation, which means striving in a way that results in our energy's being managed and focused on a goal. More recently, psychologists have paid a great deal of attention to cognition and affection, but the study of the "conative domain" of our capabilities, in many ways, has fallen through the cracks. In psychology during the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century, conation got lost because many social scientists weren't interested in things you couldn't see or count. And who can see something so abstract as the human will?" -- KATHRYN ATMAN http://www.discover.pitt.edu/pittmag/mar95/m95classes.html


This section describes a few of the ongoing research studies using the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ). The LOQ is free to researchers doing university-based research projects. These researchers have differentiated the audience (identified learning orientations) before beginning the instruction. In these studies, the goal has been to use this understanding of the audience to modify research design and analysis, support and evaluate learning and performance progress, or guide the design and development of the environment and learning solutions.


1. Jones, E. R. and Martinez, M. (2001). Learning Orientations in University Web-Based Courses - a paper submitted for publication in the Proceedings of WebNet 2001, Oct 23-27, Orlando, Florida. [online -- http://normal.tamucc.edu/jones/webnet01.pdf

2. Martinez, M. (2001). Key Design Considerations for Personalized Learning on the Web. International Forum of Educational Technology & Society. [online -- http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_1_2001/v_1_2001.html]

3. Martinez, M. and Bunderson, C. V. (2001). Foundations for Personalized Web Learning Environments. Journal of Asychronous Learning Networks, 4(2). [online --

4. Past Learning Orientation Articles can be found at:


The purpose of this section is to review some of the diverse writings about conative constructs and measures that seem useful in understanding individual learning differences, especially the impact of conation on learning. This section (made up mostly of items that are accessible via the web) is presented in hopes of promoting more conative-related research in combination with affective, social, and cognitive perspectives. "In recent years, a plethora of psychological constructs and their associated measures have been proposed for attention in instructional research and evaluation. These constructs are attempts to capture, in one way or another, aspects of human learning and performance relevant to instruction that go beyond conventional constructs of cognitive ability. The distinction between cognition, conation, and affection is convenient and historically well-founded in psychology, though it should be regarded as a matter of emphasis rather than a true partition; all human behavior, especially including instructional learning and achievement, involves some mixture of all three aspects (Hilgard, 1980). -- SNOW and JACKSON.
[online --

a. "Psychology has traditionally identified and studied three components of mind: cognition, affect, and conation (Huitt, 1996; Tallon, 1997). Conation refers to the connection of knowledge and affect to behavior and is associated with the issue of "why." It is the personal, intentional, planful, deliberate, goal-oriented, or striving component of motivation, the proactive (as opposed to reactive or habitual) aspect of behavior (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998; Emmons, 1986). It is closely associated with the concept of volition, defined as the use of will, or the freedom to make choices about what to do (Kane, 1985; Mischel, 1996). It is absolutely critical if an individual is successfully engage in self-direction and self-regulation."
[online --

b. "This article explains conation and its particular importance in distance education. Perceptions of conation are elucidated in the introduction. One classification of mental activities divides the mind in three faculties: cognition (knowing), affection (valuing), and conation (striving). Here, conation is defined as vectored energy: "i.e., personal energy that has both direction and magnitude." "The taxonomy of the conative domain is described in the five stages: perception, focus, engagement, involvement, and transcendence. Later, the twelve-step conation cycle of goal accomplishment is used to show some practical applications of the conative domain. The last section of the article considers implications of the conative domain for distance education curriculum design, delivery system and student support service."
Atman, Kathryn S. (1987). The Role of Conation (Striving) in the Distance Learning Enterprise. American Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 1(1). (29 references).

c. "The model organises into four outcome domains: cognitive, conative, affective and behavioural. These domains have a long history, going back to the ancient Greeks, who identified three of them in the human psyche: cognitive, conative and affective. The cognitive domain consists of learning, thinking, remembering and the like. The conative domain consists of planning, willpower, and intentionality. And the affective domain consists of feelings: sensations, emotions, and impressions. The Greek metaphor of the psyche was of a chariot being pulled by two horses: the cognitive domain is the charioteer, controlling and directing the horses, while the conative and affective domains provide the motive power for the human psyche, and generate the energy for its movement."
[online --

d. "The conative domain of aptitude constructs spans the domains of individual differences in motivation and volition. Conative constructs are implicated whenever students select from alternative courses of action and maintain effort and persistence until their goals are achieved or abandoned for new goals."
Jackson, Douglas N. (1998). An Exploration of Selected Conative Constructs and Their Relation to Science Learning. (CSE Technical Report 467). [online --

e. "In recent years, an overabundance of psychological constructs and their associated measures have been presented by educational researchers and program evaluators. Among the most interesting and potentially useful of these constructs are those reflecting motivational and volitional aspects of human behavior, called "conative constructs." "Among the constructs in this category are: need for achievement and fear of failure, beliefs about one's own abilities and their development, feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy, attitudes about particular subject-matter learning, and many others."
Snow, Richard & Jackson, Douglas N. (1992). Assessment of Conative Constructs for Educational Research and Evaluation. (CSE Technical Report 354). [online --

f. "This research sampled a broad range of conative constructs, including achievement motivation, anxiety, goal orientations, interest, and expectancies. The purpose was threefold: (a) to explore and clarify relationships among conative constructs hypothesized to affect student commitment to learning and subsequent performance; (b) to determine whether or not individual differences in conative constructs were associated with the learning activities and time-on-task of students engaged in a computerized science learning task; and (c) to ascertain whether or not the conative constructs and the time and activity variables from a learning task were associated with performance differences in a paper-and-pencil science recall measure."
Snow, Richard & Jackson, Douglas N. ( 1997). An Exploration of Selected Conative Constructs and Their Relation to Science Learning by Douglas N. Jackson III (CSE Technical Report 468). [online --

g. "According to Richard Snow and Douglas Jackson, conative constructs include need for achievement, fear of failure, feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy, attitudes and interests concerning particular subject matter learning, will to learn, work ethic, mindfulness in learning, and more. In this report, the researchers present a framework of conative constructs." This article also has great references. Snow, Richard & Jackson, Douglas N. ( 1997). Individual Differences in Conation: Selected Constructs and Measures. (CSE Technical Report 447). [online -- http://www.cse.ucla.edu/CRESST/Reports/TECH447.pdf]

h. "This study investigated the interrelationship of conation, goal accomplishment style, and psychological type in distance learners. The research questions for this study focused on the interrelationship of conation, goal accomplishment style, and psychological type in distance learners by measuring the conative capacity and psychological types of distance learners enrolled in satellite delivered courses. The study also investigated what influence, if any, do distance teachers have on the conative capacity of distance learners. Distance teachers need to be aware of the individual differences of distance learners in order to provide facilitation through distance education resources. A portion of this study investigated the conative capacity and psychological types of distance learners in a higher education environment to determine the appropriate 'fit' between the individual's goal accomplishment style and the psychological type."
Davis, Michaeleen Ann (1996). The Interrelationship of Conation, Goal Accomplishment Style, and Psychological Type in Distance Learners. [online --

i. "In corporate America we now have a work force that, for the most part, hates its job and demonstrates that dislike with one of the lowest productivity rates in the industrialized world, coupled with the highest rate of transience. Company loyalty, for the most part, is nonexistent. "Why are we so inept at producing employee satisfaction? I believe it's because we are asking the wrong questions and looking at the wrong indicators. Yes, personality profiles and other personnel-screening techniques may offer some clues, but don't measure the most innate indicator of success, and that is conation." McCormack, McCormack, John & Legge, David. (1990). Conation in Self-Made in America:
Plain Talk for Plain People about Extraordinary Success. New York: AW. [online --

j. "Conation, or will, is traditionally the source of motivation, it is what lends direction to thought. It is through the power of will that human behaviour is organised. Fortuitously, it is also traditionally considered to be a lack of will, or aboulia, that is expressed in fatigue (see Rabinbach, 1992). This draws upon a far older tradition of considering conation not as an intra-psychic essence, but as a force that stands prior to the activities of a given person. In Nietzche’s writings, humans themselves are but expressions of the play of these wider wills-to-power (1967). Will is in this sense an elemental force, that which animates and provides the conditions for all historical movement (see Foucault, 1980b). Conation also figures as a similar motive force in Spinoza’s Ethics, where it is described simply as ‘endeavour to persist in being’. These older descriptions of conation may provide a lever for thinking through the linkage of discourse and set-up in emotionality." Classics in the History of Psychology -- Baldwin (1901). [online -- http://devpsy.lboro.ac.uk/psygroup/sb/chapter7.htm]


a. Martinez, M. (18-20 April 2001). Adaptive Learning 101 (Session 104). Presentation at WBT Producer Conference 2001 (Influent), Anaheim. [online -- http://www.influent.com/wbt2001/index.html]

b. Martinez, M. (18-20 April 2001). Learning Object Designs for Personalized Learning (Workshop P8). Workshop presentation at WBT Producer Conference 2001 (Influent), Anaheim. [online -- http://www.influent.com/wbt2001/index.html]

c. Martinez, M. (August 28 - 31, 2001). Back to the Drawing Board! Designing for Online Learners. Workshop presentation at the Thirteenth Annual Instructional Technology Institute at Utah State University. [online -- http://id2.usu.edu/ITInstitute/oldindex.htm]

d. March 12-18 is Brain Awareness Week, an international effort to raise awareness about applied brain research. To find out more about Brain Week, including student activities and lesson plans, visit the Dana Alliance Web site at www.dana.org. Educators can also join neuroscientists and other educators from around the world at the Learning Brain Expo in San Antonio, TX, on July 25-28. Log on to www.brainexpo.com for details.


The next quarterly newsletter will highlight Learning & Content Management Systems and discuss what can this mean for personalized learning (using the learning orientation perspective).




******** Copyright (c) 2009 Margaret Martinez ( all rights reserved)
***We respect your right to online privacy, and will never sell your email address to a third party. To unsubscribe from this newsletter... Send e-mail to ttpinform@trainingplace.com with the line "unsubscribe newsletter" (omit quotes) in the Subject Field. To subscribe to this newsletter... Send e-mail to mmartinez@trainingplace.com with the line "subscribe to newsletter" (omit quotes) in the Subject Field.
***Tell us what you think... If anything in this issue inspires you or you want to explore a new topic, send suggestions, questions, or remarks to mmartinez@trainingplace.com