3. The need for a taxonomy of academic learner competencies and motivational characteristics
“Nature does not make boundaries obvious”
(Corno et al., 2002)
“Classification is arguably one of the most central and generic of all our conceptual exercises…without classification, there could be no advanced conceptualization, reasoning, language, data analysis, or for that matter, social science research.”
(Bailey, 1994)
The Need for an Organizational Taxonomy
Since the beginning of our existence, humans have searched for order in their world. Today classification is an “activity that is essential to all scientific work” (Dunn & Everitt, 1982).  The reliable and valid classification of entities (e.g., those listed in Table 1) requires a “guide” or taxonomy (Bailey, 1994; Prentky, 1994). 
Taxonomies guide the choice of constructs when conducting and synthesizing research and facilitate the evaluation of newly proposed constructs (Corno et al., 2002).  Both taxonomic functions were judged critical for the current project given the empirical research during the past century, which has provided a lengthy laundry list of important learning-related traits, abilities, and/or behaviors (Table 2), characteristics typically studied in isolation.  Table 2 is an extension of  Table 1 viz-a-viz the addition of brief subdomain definitions.  A larger and more readable version of this table can be found in the "Key Tables and Figures" section of this document/resource.
Some may ask if the specification of a provisional overarching academic learner characteristic taxonomy (viz., the MACM taxonomy) is premature.  I think not.  I agree with Corno et al. (2002) who argued that:
  • “even a provisional taxonomy…is useful. Better taxonomies will come. New assessment methods, improved measurement models, advanced statistical techniques, new devices for recording events during learning and problem solving—all will contribute to better specified and more robust constructs and construct-systems” (p. 57).
More importantly, the current literature review identified two promising contemporary and complimentary learner characteristic taxonomies—one overarching in scope, the other more narrow.  The integration and presentation of these models in a single framework serves as the organizational structure for the remainder of this document.
Both taxonomies are briefly described next.