Motivation and academic results: do motivated students have better marks?

2018 edition

Emilia Wietrak

Motivation is known as one of the main determinants of performance. It is a common belief that motivated students are more productive and persistent. In consequence, their academic results are supposed to be better than the results of unmotivated students.

The current study aims to look into the characteristics of academic motivation and investigate what is their impact on students’ performance. The objective of the research is threefold. First, we want to study if motivation changes over time, and how these changes may affect students’ results. Second, we want to know if motivation is contagious. In other words, can motivated students influence their unmotivated colleagues and vice versa? Or can teachers’ motivation spread to their students (and vice versa)? Finally, we look into different types of motivation, trying to figure out which of them, intrinsic or extrinsic, is more important for performance.

Until now, the project has involved more than 500 students from the University of Barcelona and some of their teachers. The data were collected longitudinally, several times during a semester, in order to have richer information on the motivation’s dynamics. We included over 2.000 questionnaires so far, measuring different motivation-related constructs like flow, intrinsic motivation, and perceived competence. We also collected information on students’ results: students’ subjective evaluation of their performance and their final marks.

The results of our study can provide important insights for both, practitioners and academics. First of all, they allow to learn about the changes of students’ motivation and understand how they can influence academic performance. Such information is undoubtedly of great interest for teachers and professors, as it provides clues on how to improve students’ learning process and results. Moreover, the study will give new information on the character of academic motivation (e.g., dynamic, contagious) pointing the way for the future research in the field.