A developmental investigation of intrinsic motivation : correlates, causes, and consequences in high ability students

Goldberg, Marc D., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Cornell, Dewey, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Abidin, Richard, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Despite considerable interest in academic achievement of elementary school children, few studies have examined the influence of intrinsic motivation on achievement in early elementary school children. The present study investigated relations among intrinsic motivation, perceived competence, behavior problems and academic achievement measured at the beginning and end of a school year. The sample consisted of 975 second and third grade high ability students who participated in a national study of gifted program delivery that included fifteen school districts.

The first study question concerned the internal and external validity of the intrinsic motivation measure. Factor analyses indicated that intrinsic motivation can be reliably assessed and distinguished from perceived competence in second graders as well as third graders, boys and. girls, minorities and non-minorities, and students in gifted programs and their regular education peers.

The second study question examined mean differences in intrinsic motivation subscales between groups defined by grade, gender, minority, and education status using multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) followed by univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs). Third graders showed greater autonomous judgment than second graders. Boys showed greater independent judgment than girls. There was little difference in the motivation of students placed in gifted programs and peers in regular education programs. Overall, there was little difference between minority and non-minority students. However, sex X minority and grade X minority interaction effects were observed.

The third study question investigated whether intrinsic motivation related to behavior problems using canonical correlation followed by multiple regression. Intrinsic motivation negatively related to behavior problems in both boys and girls. Specifically, intrinsic motivation negatively related to inattentive behavior and unpopularity with peers in both boys and girls. For boys, intrinsic motivation negatively related to obsessive-compulsive behavior.

The fourth study question concerned causal relations among intrinsic motivation, perceived competence, and academic-achievement. Structural equation modeling generated an exploratory causal model for relations among these constructs. The model suggests that intrinsic motivation positively influences perceived competence, which positively influences academic achievement. Academic achievement increases intrinsic motivation, forming a positive feedback loop. These findings raise implications for future research on intrinsic motivation, achievement, and related social cognition.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
elementary school children, behavior analysis, Susan Harter, academic achievement
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