The Student Motivation Scale: Further Testing of an Instrument That Measures School Students' Motivation

Article excerpt

This study examines the refined Student Motivation Scale applied to a sample of 2561 Australian high school students. The Student Motivation Scale measures six motivation boosters and four motivation guzzlers. Analysis of the data reveals a strong factor structure comprising reliable factors. Students scored relatively higher in self-belief, value of schooling, and learning focus but also relatively higher in anxiety. Senior and junior high school students reflect a more adaptive pattern of motivation than middle high school students--as do girls over boys. Boosters are more strongly (positively) correlated with mathematics and English achievement while guzzlers are more strongly (negatively) associated with literacy and numeracy. Data analysis also reveals ethnicity effects and effects associated with socioeconomic status. Taken together, examination of the data shows that the Student Motivation Scale is psychometrically sound and can be usefully implemented to determine groups of students at risk of disengagement, disinterest, and underachievement.


Motivation can be conceptualised as students' energy and drive to learn, work effectively, and achieve to their potential at school and the behaviours that follow from this energy and drive. Motivation plays a large part in students' interest in and enjoyment of school and study. Motivation also underpins their achievement (Martin, 1998, 2001, 2002; Martin & Debus, 1998; Martin & Marsh, 2003; Martin, Marsh, & Debus, 2001a, 2001b, 2003; Meece, Wigfield, & Eccles, 1990; Schunk, 1990).

There are many instruments that measure student motivation. For the most part, however, they tend to reflect motivation that is underpinned by a single theoretical perspective (see for example, the Multidimensional Multiattributional Causality Scale--Lefcourt, Von Baeyer, Ware, & Cox, 1979; the Multidimensional Measure of Children's Perceptions of Control--Connell, 1985; the Self Description Questionnaire--Marsh, 1990; the Motivation Orientation Scale--Nicholls, 1989; the Cognitive Engagement Scale--Miller, Greene, Montalvo, Ravindran, & Nichols, 1996).

From the perspective of a practitioner seeking to enhance students' motivation, instruments reflecting single theoretical perspectives will yield directions for intervention that target only a few (at best) dimensions of motivation. Ideally a test of motivation would be multidimensional, drawing together a number of different theoretical perspectives that better reflect the totality of students' motivational profile in the classroom. The Student Motivation Scale is an instrument that draws together a number of theoretical perspectives and measures aspects of motivation that reflect its multidimensionality.

The Student Motivation Scale has been refined since publication of initial data on its psychometric properties (Martin, 2001) and articulation of its conceptual rationale in a previous issue of this journal (Martin, 2002). An additional subscale has been added, items within subscales have been refined and reduced, and data have been collected on over 2000 additional students across a more representative selection of Australian high schools. This paper presents these data as well as motivation effects related to gender, year level, achievement, literacy, numeracy, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity.

The Student Motivation Wheel and the Student Motivation Scale

There have been numerous theoretical contributions to our understanding of motivation. Among the more influential theories are need achievement theory, self-worth motivation theory, self-efficacy theory, expectancy x value theory, attribution theory, control theory, choice theory, and motivation orientation theory. Taken together, these theories tell us (a) why students do what they do, (b) how they do it, (c) their confidence in being able to do it, (d) their ability to surmount obstacles and challenges before them, and (e) their capacity to pick themselves up after academic setback or hold their ground in the face of study pressures. …


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