First Advisor

Ellen Skinner

Date of Publication

Winter 1-31-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Self-perception in children, Elementary school teachers -- Attitudes, Teacher-student relationships, Motivation in education



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 258 pages)


Research has demonstrated that academic engagement is an important resource for students, promoting their learning and achievement. Less well documented is the possibility that students' classroom engagement may also be a valuable resource for their teachers, capable of influencing how teachers treat their students over time. The current study sought to examine the relationship between student motivation and teacher behavior to better understand how teachers perceive and respond to their students' classroom motivation and whether these motivational states contain diagnostic information about the types of supports students may need in order to be engaged, enthusiastic learners. The observable manifestations of motivation, engagement and disaffection, may contain valuable information about students' inner experiences that educators can use to optimize their teaching. Thus, the goal of the current study was to examine the reciprocal effects of student motivation on teachers' provision of support by using a longitudinal design, a more comprehensive assessment of behavioral and emotional engagement and disaffection, and a person-centered approach to investigate whether potential factors influencing the quality of students' classroom engagement can help inform more targeted intervention efforts.

Data from 1018 3rd through 6th grade students and their teachers were used to create two sets of teacher-reported student motivation profiles, namely, a theory-driven and an empirically-derived set of profiles. Using both sets of profiles, the current study failed to provide evidence that student engagement and disaffection profiles influenced changes in the quality of support students' received from their teachers over the school year. The current study also examined whether knowledge of the motivation profile into which a student falls can tell us something meaningful about their unobservable, inner experiences or self-system processes (SSP's) such that we can use their profile to "diagnose" motivational issues stemming from these student inner experiences. Results indicated that, with one exception, students in different profiles did not report differential levels of the three SSP's; rather, if students in a given profile had low levels of one self-system process, they had low levels of all three. Finally, for two of the ten student motivation profiles, (At Risk and Checked-out) students in the high teacher support subgroup and the low teacher support subgroup experienced differential changes in their self-reported engagement from fall to spring such that the students who received the "treatment" (high levels of teacher support) started and ended higher than those who received low levels of teacher support, but also showed steeper declines over the year, because students with low teacher support started low and remained low (but did not lose any more ground) across the year.

Discussion focuses on the utility and potential drawbacks of using person-centered approaches to examining student motivation and potential causes for the lack of supported hypotheses. Implications discuss the need for further research and how we can help teachers gain a more nuanced and differential view of their students' motivated actions and emotions in the classroom.


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