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"I can't be arsed": A small-scale exploration of students' self-reported motivation on entering a course of study and eventual "success"

Prowse, A and Delbridge, R (2013) "I can't be arsed": A small-scale exploration of students' self-reported motivation on entering a course of study and eventual "success". Education and Training, 55 (7). pp. 654-664. ISSN 0040-0912

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the university course trajectories of students from entry to a 3-year full-time undergraduate programme, to graduation with an honours degree, in the light of their self-reported motivations to study. This small-scale investigation took place at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI). Design/methodology/approach: A small-scale survey using the Academic Motivation (to study) Scale was administered to 102 students on entry to a full-time undergraduate degree course in an interdisciplinary information-based department in a UK HEI. The students' motivation profiles were assessed in relation to their trajectory through the degree course and selected students were interviewed just prior to graduation. Findings: The report focuses on the pattern of student motivations - in general students who achieved "good" degrees were likely to have lower motivation and students achieving "not so good" degrees were likely to self-report higher levels of both autonomous and controlled motivations. Whilst the small sample size and individual variation may partly explain these results, interviews with a small number of participants allowed some further explication of these patterns. Research limitations/implications: Because of the complexity of variables potentially involved in studies relating to motivation, the focus of this study was practitioner reflection. Thus, it examines self-reported motivations measured on a established scale and 'success' in terms of progression and attainment. The research findings were from a small cohort study in a convenience sample of 102 students in a particular context, so there are necessarily limits on the generalisability of the study. Practical implications: Elements around student achievement and progression related to their motivation are identified, and may contribute to effective design of learning experiences that students "can be arsed" to engage in. Originality/value: New empirical data are reported which provide an insight into student attitudes to study and the applicability of teacher responses, which are briefly discussed in relation to socio-cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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