Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Motivational Issues in Learning Disabilities: Editors' Introduction to Special Issue

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Motivational Issues in Learning Disabilities: Editors' Introduction to Special Issue

Article excerpt

Our motivation behind this special issue on Motivation in Learning Disabilities stems from the fact that motivational orientations, attributes, and characteristics are highly predictive of subsequent student engagement and behavior in academic and nonacademic tasks (Dweck, 1988; Sabatino, 1982). In her pioneer work, Dweck (1986) and Dweck and Leggett (1988) demonstrated that students of equal ability displayed significantly different behaviors during an academic activity, with some of them persisting and achieving high levels of performance and others giving up. Dweck and her colleagues attributed those findings to motivation, and in particular to two motivational styles, which were associated with unique networks of cognition, affect, and behavior.

Several studies have since documented the importance of motivation in the academic behavior and achievement of students with learning disabilities (LD) (Bouffard & Couture, 2003; Fulk, Brigham, & Lohman, 1998; Pintrich, Anderman, & Klobucar, 1994; Thomas & Oldfather, 1997). In some of these studies, motivation acted as a moderator of achievement (Poskiparta, Niemi, Lepola, Ahtola, & Laine, 2003), a mediator (Quirk, 2004; Sideridis, 2003), or both (Kaplan & Midgley, 2000; Linnenbrink, 2005; Sideridis, in press). Nevertheless, evidence points to the fact that motivation exerts significant effects on the academic functioning of students with LD. These effects have been found in both quantitative and qualitative studies. For example, Sideridis (1995) described a student with mental retardation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) whose spelling achievement improved dramatically using a classwide peer tutoring intervention (Greenwood, Terry, Arreaga-Mayer, & Finney, 1992). Using an ABAB design, the student, Charles, managed to come third in his class during the first intervention phase (B1). Interesting, during the reverse-to-baseline condition (A2), this student approached the principal investigator and said, "When will we start doing that tutoring thing again? My grades started going down ...!" Thus, the intervention managed to increase this student's motivation to a very high level with collateral positive effects on his academic achievement and social functioning; in addition, he stopped being rejected and neglected by his peers (for more information, see Sideridis et al., 1997).

Even though motivation is acknowledged as being important in the education of all students (Adelman & Taylor, 1983), relatively little research has been conducted on the topic for students with LD. This is paradoxical, given its documented importance (Chapman, 1988; Chapman & Tunmer, 1995). For example, based on a meta-analysis of all intervention studies targeting enhanced reading fluency in students with LD, Morgan and Sideridis (in press) reported that the two most effective interventions included strong elements of motivation (goal setting and feedback, with or without reinforcement). This recent study suggests that educational interventions may be particularly effective when they combine elements of motivation. This proposition has been also validated in previous studies (Garcia & de Caso, 2004, in press; Lepola, Saloner, Vauras, & Poskiparta, 2004; Pappa, Zafiropoulou, & Metallidou, 2003). Thus, the first important area of research involves incorporating motivation into the curriculum.

In another area of research, motivation was found to account for significant amounts of the variability of LD classification. For example, Sideridis, Morgan, Botsas, Padeliadu, and Fuchs (2006) demonstrated across five studies that motivation was a strong predictor of LD group membership. This finding is particularly important given that several cognitive variables have reportedly been poor predictors of LD classification (see Watkins, 2005; Watkins, Kush, & Glutting, 1997; Watkins, Kush, & Schaefer, 2002). Thus, another important line of research pertains to deciphering the role and power of motivation to account for significant variance in group membership (typical vs. …

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