Class belongingness in adolescent motivation

iStock_000012608964XSmallAdolescents who feel valued and respected by classmates are more likely to report adaptive achievement motivation, reports a study from The Journal of Experimental Education. Students with a good quality friendship and a best friend who values academics also were more likely to report adaptive achievement motivation, report the authors.

Participants in this study of the social aspects of student motivation were 253 6th, 7th and 9th grade science students in a large southern suburban school district where the average education and income of students were above average. Students attended 13 different science classes taught by four teachers; in all the classes, instructional activities such as lab work required that students interact with one another.

The authors investigated associations among perceived peer relationships and achievement motivation during science class. Students completed a questionnaire assessing peer classroom climate, achievement-related beliefs and values of a best friend, achievement goals, social goals, and self-efficacy.

Students self-assessed on the following measures: Approaches to learning, classroom social goals, classmates’ involvement, class belongingness, classmates’ resistance to school norms, best friend’s academic valuing, best friend’s resistance to school norms, friendship quality. Students indicated that they agreed or disagreed with the statements on a 1-5 scale from strongly disagree to agree. Regression analyses indicated that perceived peer relationship variables explained variance in achievement motivation.

The researchers built their study on M. L. Maehr’s (1984) theory of personal investment. Maehr proposed that the meaning a learner creates for an activity determines how much time and energy will be invested in that activity. He identified three facets of meaning: the individual’s current goals, sense of self, and perceptions of action possibilities in the classroom. The study focused on two facets of meaning, achievement and social goals.

“Adolescents who perceived they were valued and respected members of the classroom community reported higher self-efficacy and mastery, performance-approach, intimacy, and responsibility goals, each of which is positively associated with student achievement,” they write.

Achievement Motivation in Adolescents: The Role of Peer Climate and Best Friends by R. Michael Nelson and Teresa DeBacker. The Journal of Experimental Education, Volume 76, Number 2, 2008, pp. 170-189.


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