In the bachelor program in IT and information systems at University of Agder (UiA) we have had a drop out rate up to more than 60% during the three year program. On this background a project was started to find the reason for drop out and implement actions to increase learning and reduce the dropout rate among our students.
According to a survey carried out among bachelor students in Information Systems at UiA, lack of motivation, mismatch between expectations and content in the study programme in addition to ineffective study-strategies were the most important reasons for dropping out (Nilsen, 2006).
Since motivation, self-efficacy, and value-expectancy are the most influencing factors on students' academic performance (Bandura, 1997; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002), these constructs and the mechanisms behind them need a thorough understanding. Then actions aimed at influencing motivation, self-efficacy and value-expectancy can be implemented. This is what the rest of this paper is about.
I started working at the University of Agder (UiA) in 1997 after ten years in consulting, because I wanted to teach and to work with students. The first years I did a lot of teaching and participated in several projects, which I really enjoyed. In addition I did some research, which I mostly liked. What I struggled with was academic writing. At this time our school applied to be a full university, with much focus on research and publishing. I found when I was "pushed" to publish, to produce a certain number of publications, it reduced my motivation and joy in my work. After some negative feedback I started to believe I could not write academic papers.
Then I decided to follow my intrinsic motivation, to focus on the things that were the reason for me to be at the University. I asked myself about my job: Why do I work at a University,--what gives me meaning? The answer was the same as my initial reason for entering the University, namely to work with students. The last two years I have worked almost 100% with student-related tasks: teaching, implementing actions to increase motivation and decrease dropout rate, and to learn more about student motivation. The work with students has inspired me to undertake research on student motivation; I have even published some of it. Publishing is not a goal, but a result of work I find interesting and valuable.
My motivation and commitment at UiA was in the beginning very high, then lower, and now increasing, because I now do what I believe is important. I enjoy my work more and believe I contribute to something important. This made me think of our students. When I was an Associate Professor, with a high degree of freedom and possibilities to influence my own work, I lost much of my motivation; how is it then for our students?
When someone enters a job or a study program, they will mostly be motivated because of expectation of a new situation. Let's assume students that enter our bachelor program in Information Systems are motivated and, hopefully, mostly intrinsically motivated. This motivation may be based on unrealistic or wrong expectation, but nevertheless, let's assume most students that enter the program are motivated.
But it seems like this initial enthusiasm disappears for many students. Some researchers suggest "something or someone is decreasing the high levels of motivation" that students and employees bring with them to the classroom and workplace (Bowman, 2007; Sirota, Mischkind, & Meltzer, 2005). Instead of asking how we can motivate students we could ask "how educators can be deterred-from diminishing--even destroying--student motivation and morale through their policies and practices? " (Bowman, 2007; Sirota et al., 2005) The key question then is, "How can lecturers maintain student's initially high motivation?"
The goal in my work at UiA is to maintain and increase motivation, self-efficacy and value-expectations among bachelor students in IT and Information Systems. …