Medical educators seek to understand and facilitate learners' motivations to acquire the skills, knowledge, values, and attitudes that will prepare them for life-times of learning and providing care to their patients and communities. Yet faculty are often challenged by experiences with learners who appear unmotivated, or who seem to value goals other than those the faculty espouse. Understanding what motivates learners may help educators appreciate the complex environment in which motivations are formed, and the sometimes-hidden influences upon motivation that may explain learners' attitudes and behaviors. In this brief essay, the author discusses some of the current theories about motivation and describes how they might relate to the education of physicians. She also explores the too-frequent disparities between medical schools' stated goals for learners and what is actually taught or rewarded by faculty. Although motivation is multifaceted, involving learners and the entire learning environment, there are strategies that may be used to strengthen students' motivations to achieve important goals.
(C) 1999 Association of American Medical Colleges