Math Motivation Classifications of U.S. High School Students: What Changes from Grade 9 to Grade 11?
Talwar, Jason S
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Understanding motivational classifications around math as a content area for adolescent students is a good first step toward facilitating interventions aimed at improving the STEM education-career pipeline. Prior research has posited that achievement motivation can be represented by four major factors: performance-approach, mastery-approach, performance-avoidance, and mastery-avoidance orientations. The present study tests whether there are distinct math motivation classifications in grades 9 and 11. Classifications at each grade level were tested using responses on seven math motivation 4-point rating scale items from a nationally representative sample of N = 23,503 (15,605 with complete data at both grades) high school students who participated in the 2009 High School Longitudinal Survey (HSLS:09). Both k-means cluster analysis (CA) and latent class analyses (LCA) were used to examine the number and nature of classifications at each grade level separately; next, a latent transition analysis (LTA) was used to test class membership patterns across the two grade levels. LCA results indicated that there were three classes for each grade level, and that the class types appeared to simply quantify sections of a normally distributed motivation factor (low, moderate, and high motivation), rather than qualitatively different classes; the LCA findings were also comparable to the non-model-based CA results. The LTA results showed that, while many adolescents remained stable within their classifications from grade 9 to 11, students in the extremes of grade 9 (low and high motivation classes) tended to move toward moderate motivation by grade 11. Ultimately, a latent growth model treating motivation as continuous rather than nominal had the best fit to the data. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.
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