Motivation in Education Research Group

Research Projects

Childhood and Beyond Study (NICHD Funded). This project focuses broadly on the development and socialization of children’s ability beliefs, expectancies for success, and task values in achievement areas such as different academic subjects, music, and sports areas. MERG team members are working on the following specific projects utilizing this dataset:

  1. How parents' beliefs about the nature of children's ability affect their parenting behaviors when interacting with their children during achievement activities (Lara Turci)
  2. How children’s expectancies and values in math measured in elementary school predict their choice of college major (Lauren Musu-Gillette and Allan Wigfield)
  3. How children’s perceptions of teacher warmth and support measured in early elementary school relate to change in perceptions of teacher support through the end of high school, and to their expectancies and values in different subjects (Amanda Mason-Singh)

REAL Project (NICHD Funded). This project concerns how Concept Oriented Reading Instruction, a reading comprehension program that combines strategy instruction and instruction to promote motivation, influences middle school students’ reading comprehension and reading motivation.

  1. Relations of students’ perception of instruction in CORI to their immediate and long term motivation (Amanda Mason-Singh and Allan Wigfield)
  2. Relations of students’ perceptions of instruction in two versions of CORI—one with all 6 instructional motivation supports and one with a subset of 4 instructional motivation supports—to their immediate and long term motivation (Amanda Mason-Singh and Allan Wigfield)
  3. European American and African American middle school students’ motivation for reading and how it relates to their reading comprehension (Allan Wigfield, Amy Ho, Jenna Cambria)
  4. How students' profiles of reading motivation (based on their self-efficacy, valuing, perceived difficulty, and devaluing) predict different types of achievement (Emily Rosenzweig and Allan Wigfield)

Sources of Effort Study. This study examines whether undergraduate students’ assessments of their own and others’ academic abilities are influenced by cues about effort. Specifically, the study investigates whether perceptions of the source of effort, for example, whether an individual’s effort is perceived as primarily arising from the difficulty of the task itself (task-elicited) or the individual’s own motivation (self-initiated), influences evaluations of that individual’s ability. (Katie Muenks)

Exploring  the Influence of Fathers' and Mothers' Involvement in Middle School Students' Academic Motivation and Achievement Within Asian American Families. (Amy N. Ho)

Motivating Adolescents to Study Science (MASS) Intervention. This project aims to develop an intervention that targets adolescent students' achievement by improving their confidence, interest, value, and autonomy in science class. We adapted five instructional practices from the REAL project, that support different motivational variables; teachers deliver one practice each school day for 4–6 weeks. (Emily Rosenzweig and Allan Wigfield)

Grit in High School and College Students. In this project, we are examining how grit, defined as trait-level passion and perseverance for long-term goals, relates to a number of motivation and self-regulation variables and whether it uniquely predicts achievement. (Katie Muenks and Allan Wigfield)

Intervening to Reduce Perceptions of Cost in STEM. Many students think their college science classes will require too much effort, worry that the classes will take time away from other activities, or fear the psychological consequences of failure (and sometimes of success as well). The goal of this project is to develop a brief intervention that will help reduce students' perceptions of these costs and to evaluate the effects of this program on motivation and achievement. (Emily Rosenzweig)

High School Students' Grit, Self-Regulation, and Motivation in Relation to Science and Math Outcomes (NSF Funded). Grit, defined originally by psychologist Angela Duckworth as one's perseverance and passion in the pursuit of long-term, challenging goals, has become much attention in the scientific community and in the media. It has been proposed that researchers and practitioners should implement interventions focused on enhancing students’ grit in science, math, and other fields to improve their achievement and persistence. But to date grit's validity as a psychological construct, especially in relation to conceptually similar motivational and self-regulatory constructs, has not been systematically explored. We will conduct a longitudinal validation study of grit, assessing its convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity as well as gender and ethnic differences over time. We will conduct our study with an ethnically and economically diverse sample of middle and high school students, who will be surveyed twice in 8th grade and once in 9th grade to measure their levels of grit and other motivation, self-regulation, and personality variables. Information about students' choices to take STEM courses, their grades in those courses, and their anticipated major in college will also be collected. The project will be transformative in its use of sophisticated analysis strategies such as item response theory and other latent variable modeling procedures. With these groundbreaking strategies in hand, Drs. Wigfield and Yang hope to parse out grit's uniqueness from other motivational and self-regulatory constructs with clear relations to STEM outcomes. (Allan Wigfield, Ji Seung Yang, Jessica Gladstone, Lara Turci)

Understanding Differences in Motivation Across Culture: Substantive and Methodological Advances in Measuring Motivation (Collaboration with the University of Tübingen). The MERG team along with faculty and graduate students in EDMS at Maryland (Jeff Harring and Laura Stapleton) are working with faculty, postdoctoral, and graduate student researchers from the University of Tübingen (led by Professors Benjamin Nagengast and Ulrich Trautwein) to study motivation in Germany and the U.S., and help develop the next set of motivation measures to be used in longitudinal studies of the development of children’s motivation, focusing in particular on developing measures that are valid in different age groups of students. The group also will work to develop new analytic approaches allowing researchers to assess developmental validity. Our ultimate goal is to establish new developmentally valid measures of key achievement motivation constructs, something sorely needed in this field given the increasing “internationalization” of work on motivation. Because of the group’s expertise both in the motivation field and in measurement, we are in a unique position to make seminal contributions in this area. The work is being funded by a collaborative agreement between the two universities.