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Student Motivational Dynamics


by Mary McCaslin & Heidi Legg Burross — 2008

Background/Context: Student motivation typically has been studied as it relates to extrinsic (e.g., reinforcement) or intrinsic (e.g., personal choice) sources of influence, with scant attention to sociocultural context. This article builds on a previous article in this special issue that (1) addresses the role of opportunity in the motivation of students in Grades 3–5 who live in poverty and attend schools engaged in Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) and (2) presents the results of survey measures designed to capture student understandings of school. Findings suggested that students differentiate the social (school, teacher, classmates) from the academic (math, reading) domains of school. This article explores individual differences in students’ global understandings of, and dispositions toward, school.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if and how students in Grades 3–5 who live in poverty and attend schools engaged in CSR differ in their understandings of, and dispositions toward, school.

Research Design: Students in Grades 3–5 who live in poverty and attend schools engaged in CSR completed the “The thing about my school is…” measure. Study 1 involved 464 students in spring 2004, Study 2 involved 328 students in fall 2004, and in Study 3, a subgroup of 101 participants was tracked from one school year to the next.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Exploratory factor analyses revealed individual differences in student dispositions toward school that refined global reports in ways that may prove amenable to motivational interventions. Findings suggest that the central motivational process for these students resides in a need for interpersonal validation in which achievement and affiliation concerns are mediated by participation-isolation tensions. These patterns also suggest the role of adaptation in motivation; participation and validation are central motivational processes for students in Grades 3–5 who cope with the challenges of poverty and mobility and who attend schools engaged in comprehensive reform.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 11, 2008, p. 2452-2463
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15284, Date Accessed: 12/11/2017 8:01:46 PM

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About the Author
  • Mary McCaslin
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    MARY MCCASLIN is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Arizona. Her scholarship focuses on the relationships among cultural, social, and personal sources of influence that coregulate student adaptive learning, motivational dynamics, and emergent identity. Her recent publications are “Co-Regulation of Student Motivation and Emergent Identity” in Educational Psychologist (in press), and “Co-Regulation of Opportunity, Activity, and Identity in Student Motivation: Elaborations on Vygotskian Themes” in S. M. McInerney and S. Van Etten (Eds.), Big Theories Revisited: Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning(Information Age, 2004).
  • Heidi Burross
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    HEIDI LEGG BURROSS is an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, and research consultant. Her research interests include students’ self-perceptions of performance and changes in student performance over time. Recent publications are “Students as Peers/Friends” in T. L. Good (Ed.), 21st Century Education: A Reference Handbook (SAGE, in press); and, with coauthors M. M. McCaslin and T. L. Good, “Change and Continuity in Student Achievement From Grades 3 to 5: A Policy Dilemma,” Education Policy Analysis Archives (2005).
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