The effect of motivation on student achievement

The Influence of Learner Motivation on Academic Achievement

Aug 07 2022

The question of how learners’ motivation influences their academic achievement and vice versa has been the subject of intensive research due to its theoretical relevance and important implications for the field of education. This study shows how influential theories of academic motivation have conceptualized reciprocal interactions between motivation and achievement, and the kinds of evidence that support this reciprocity.

Mediating Factors Between Motivation and Achievement

Motivation and emotion can be a difficult line to draw. Both of these concepts can interact, although emotions are depicted as more temporary than motivation. For instance, certain emotions can either enhance or obstruct motivation. Just like how there have been studies on the relationship between motivation and student achievement, there are recent studies on the reciprocal relationship between emotions and student achievement.

There are several mediating factors between motivation and achievement. When effort is measured as quality of learning (e.g., selecting adaptive goals, adopting higher-quality learning strategies, etc.), there is some evidence for a positive link between academic achievement and effort. However, when effort is measured as a quantity of learning (such as study time, practice time, time-on-task, persistence, etc.), this relationship seems either weak or only significant after controlling for quality of learning. Another mediating factor can be self-regulation, as some theories suggest motivation only leads to the decision to act.

Finding of Studies Performed on Motivation and Achievement

Most studies (this article summarized multiple studies) investigating the reciprocal relationship between motivation and achievement have measured motivation through questionnaires probing academic self-concept (e.g., the Academic SelfDescription Questionnaire by Marsh & O’Neill, 1984). The studies interpreting the connection between motivation and achievement lack a causal relationship. In almost every study investigating reciprocal motivation and achievement relations, the need for experimental designs, in which either motivation or achievement is manipulated, is raised as a suggestion for future research.

The Influence of Motivation on Achievement

All the theories examined suggested that there are positive influences of motivation on achievement and vice versa. There is also a very strong relationship between motivation and student achievement. One of the hardest problems to solve is the lack of studies that allow for firm causal inferences. While there are studies that lack a controlled variable, there are other studies that do have a causal effect but consist of a third or hidden variable.

Notable Quotes: 

“This led to a research agenda consisting of the following recommendations for future studies on the relationship between motivation and performance: (1) include multiple motivation constructs (on top of ASC), (2) investigate behavioral mediators, (3) consider a network approach, (4) align frequency of measurement to expected change rate in intended constructs and include multiple time scales to better understand influences across time-scales, (5) check whether designs meet the criteria for measuring causal, reciprocal inferences, (6) choose an appropriate statistical model, (7) apply alternatives to self-reports, (8) consider various ways of measuring achievement, and (9) strive for generalization of the findings to various age, ethnic, and sociocultural groups.” 

“We argued that the strongest support for causal claims on motivation-achievement relations would be studies manipulating either motivation or achievement at one time point and studying the effects on motivation-achievement interactions across subsequent time points.” 

“…there might be culture-dependent or population-specific pathways connecting the relationship between motivation and achievement.” 

Summarized Article:

Vu, T., Magis-Weinberg, L., Jansen, B. R. J., van Atteveldt, N., Janssen, T. W. P., Lee, N. C., van der Maas, H. L. J., Raijmakers, M. E. J., Sachisthal, M. S. M., & Meeter, M. (2022). Motivation-Achievement Cycles in Learning: a Literature Review and Research Agenda. Educational Psychology Review, 34(1), 39–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-021-09616-7.

Summarized By: Michael Ho

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