Curricular fit perspective on motivation in higher education

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we present a curricular perspective that can be used to understand students’ focus on assessment in higher education. We propose that the degree of alignment between the objectives and assessment of the curriculum plays a crucial role in students’ motivation. In case of perfect alignment, all objectives have an equitable probability of being assessed. Thus, all learning contributes to performance equitably. Consequently, the motivation to perform and the motivation to learn should result in the same learning behaviour and performance. However, in reality, a certain degree of cognitive and operant misalignment of the assessment with the objectives is present. Hence, some objectives will not need to be mastered in order to pass certain assessments. Consequently, a distinction arises between assessed and unassessed learning, and only the assessed learning contributes to performance. Thus, the probability of performing well on assessments is higher when students focus their effort on the assessed learning only, instead of dividing their effort between the assessed and unassessed learning. Therefore, students who are motivated to perform have a motivation that fits in a misaligned curriculum. The article concludes with implications of this curricular fit perspective for assessment practices, as well as for motivational research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-745
Number of pages17
JournalHigher Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021


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