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The effect of motivation, family environment, and student characteristics on academic achievement.

This paper is designed to study the effect of motivation, family environment, and student characteristics on academic achievement. The study was conducted on 388 high school students (193 males and 195 females) from Abu Dhabi District, United Arab Emirates (UAE). A Likert-type instrument that consisted of three parts (scales) was used to measure students' level of motivation, parental influences, and students' characteristics, while academic achievement was measured using student's GPA. Calculations were also breakdown by gender to assess differences between male and female students. Students' mean level of motivation was less than the means of parental influence and student's characteristics. No gender differences were observed on the variables measured by the instrument. Correlations between each of motivation, family environment, student characteristics and academic achievement were small and practically not significant. Remarkably high correlation value was observed between motivation and students characteristic. The highest correlation value was observed between family environment and students' characteristics. Results were discussed on the light of other studies' findings and results.

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Intelligence is not the only determinant of academic achievement. High motivation and engagement in learning have consistently been linked to reduced dropout rates and increased levels of student success (Kushman, Sieber, & Harold, 2000). Development of academic intrinsic motivation in students is an important goal for educators because of its inherent important for future motivation as well as for student's effective school functioning (Gottfried, 1990). The few studies that have examined motivation in young children have found that it is a week predictor of achievement (Stipek & Ryan, 1997). The family is the primary social system for children. Rollins and Thomas (1979) found that high parental control were associated with high achievement. Cassidy and Lynn (1991) included a specific factor of the family's socioeconomic status, crowding, as an indicator of how being disadvantaged affects educational attainment. They found that a less physically crowded environment, along with motivation and parental support, were associated with higher educational levels of children. Religiosity as an aspect of the family environment is another independent variable possibly influencing academic achievement (Bahr, Hawks, & Wang, 1993). Cassidy and Lynn (1991) explored how family environment impacts motivation and achievement. This means that motivation served as a mediating variable between home background, personal characteristics, and educational attainment.

Higher-achieving students are likely to have the following characteristics: positive feelings about their school experiences; attribute their success in high school to such things as hard work, self-discipline, organization, ability, and high motivation; tend to watch relatively little television during the school week; tend to associate with students who also were successful in school; and avid readers (WEAC, 2005).

This paper is designed to study the effect of motivation, family environment, and student characteristics on academic achievement. Research in this area should increase the awareness to concentrate on student's motivation in an effort to increase effective school functioning in the later years and eventually improve our educational stature.

Review of the Literature

Early motivational theorists in psychology attempted to explain motivation in many different settings and for many kinds of behaviors (Weiner, 1990). Motivation is referred to as multidimensional: it measures impulsive and deliberate action, is concerned with the internal and external factors, and observes causes for behavior. Harter (1983) proposed a model of mastery or effectance motivation, describing the effects of both success and failure experiences on mastery motivation. The goals of effectance motivation are acquiring competence and influencing one's environment (Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998). Mastery motivation is defined as a general tendency to interact with and to express influence over the environment.

According to Goldberg (1994), children with intrinsic motivation in academic would have higher self-perceptions of competence in academics and that children who are extrinsically motivated would have lower perceived academic competence. Harter's effectance motivation theory is important because it includes the effects of both success and failure on subsequent motivation (Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998).

Student's motivation for learning is generally regarded as on of the most critical determinants, if not the premier determinant, of the success and quality of any learning outcome (Mitchell, 1992). Examining the construct of intrinsic motivation in elementary school students is significant and important, because academic intrinsic motivation in the elementary years may have profound implications for initial and future school success. Students who are more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated fare better and students who are not motivated to engage in learning are unlikely to succeed (Gottfried, 1990).

Intrinsic motivational patterns have been associated with high-perceived ability and control, realistic task analysis and planning, and the belief that effort increases one's ability and control (Fincham & Cain, 1986). An extrinsic orientation toward learning is characterized by a concern with external reasons for working, such as the judgment of others regarding one's performance, grades, or some anticipated reward. Intrinsic motivation is attenuated by the use of extrinsic rewards and tends to change or decrease as the age of the child increases (Goldberg, 1994).

Academic achievement is accomplished by the actual execution of class work in the school setting. It is typically assessed by the use of teacher ratings, tests, and exams (Howse, 1999). Research shows that student' perceptions of academic competency decline as they advance in school (Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998). Schunk and Pajares (2002) attribute this decline to various factors, including greater competition, less teacher attention to individual student progress, and stresses associated with school transitions. Students were motivated by teachers who cared about student learning and showed enthusiasm. These teachers introduced topics in an interesting and challenging way, used varied teaching strategies, and promoted student involvement by allowing participation in the selection of learning activities (Cothran & Ennis, 2000).

Gottfried found positive correlations between motivation and achievement. Specifically, young students with higher academic intrinsic motivation had significantly higher achievement and intellectual performance. She also found that early intrinsic motivation correlates with later motivation and achievement and that later motivation is predictable from early achievement (Gottfried, 1990). It was also found that perceived academic competence was positively related to intrinsic motivation. It seems that students who feel competent and self-determined in the school context develop an autonomous motivational profile toward education, which in turn leads them to obtain higher school grades. Perceived academic competence and perceived academic self-determination positively influenced autonomous academic motivation, which in turn had a positive impact on school performance (Fortier, Vallerand, & Guay, 1995).

Some studies have found little or no significant relationship between motivation and academic achievement. A study by Niebuhr (1995) examined relationships between several variables and student academic achievement. The study included an investigation of the relationship of individual motivation and its effect on academic achievement. Findings indicate that student motivation showed no significant effect on the relationship with academic achievement. Niebuhr's (1995) findings suggest that the elements of both school climate and family environment have a stronger direct on academic achievement. Another study by Boggiano, Main, and Katz (1991), regarding differences in gender in motivation, found that females were significantly more extrinsic than males. Male students' performance accords their interest level more than is the case for female students. Specifically, female students' academic performance is less associated with their interests than male students' academic performance (Schiefele, Krapp, & Winteler, 1992).

The literature reviewed showed that most elementary students begin their academic career with a desire to learn and with an intrinsic approach to achievement (Entwisle & others, 1986). It has been revealed that an intrinsic orientation toward education switches to a more extrinsic orientation as students increase in age (Goldberg, 1994). Often educators complain that students are unmotivated to learn; parents echo this cry and each blame the other for the students' apathetic response to learning. If schools and parents focused on the different parts of academic motivation and developed meaningful programs, across the home and classroom, possible gains could result (Niebuhr, 1995).

According to Hammer (2003) the home environment is as important as what goes on in the school. Important factors include parental involvement in their children's education, how much parents read to young children, how much TV children are allowed to watch and how often students change schools. Achievement gab is not only about what goes on once students get into the classroom. It's also about what happens to them before and after school. Parents and teachers have a crucial role to play to make sure that every child becomes a high achiever. Parental influence has been identified as an important factor affecting student achievement. Results indicate that parent education and encouragement are strongly related to improved student achievement (Wang, Wildman, & Calhoun, 1996).

Phillips (1998) also found that parental education and social economic status have an impact on student achievement. Students with parents who were both college-educated tended to achieve at the highest levels. Income and family size were modestly related to achievement (Ferguson, 1991). Peng and Wright's (1994) analysis of academic achievement, home environment (including family income) and educational activities, concluded that home environment and educational activities explained the greatest amount of variance. In conclusion denying the role of the impact of a student's home circumstances will not help to endow teachers and schools with the capacity to reduce achievement gaps (Hammer, 2003).

Allen and Kickbusch (1992), cited in WEAC, 2005, found that the higher-achieving students plan to continue their education after graduation from high school, participate extensively in extracurricular activities, have a few absences each school year, more likely to engage in recreational reading and to check books out of the school or public library on a regular basis, watch less television, spend more time each evening doing their home work, have friend who have positive attitudes toward school and who rarely cut classes or skip school, have positive feelings about their teachers and about specific courses they take and attribute success in school to hard work rather than ability. This study attempted to reveal the relationship between motivation, family environment, student characteristics and academic achievement.

Methodology

Instrument and Variables

An instrument consists of three parts (scales) was used to measure the variables of this study (see Appendix). The first part, which consists of 10 items (items 1 to 10), was used to measure students' level of motivation (Broussard, 2002). Examples from this part are: "I like hard work because it is a challenge", Item 2, and "I like to go on to new work that's at a more difficult level", Item 8. The second part, which has 10 items too (items 11 to 20), was used to measure parental influences (Wang, Wildman, & Calhoun, 1996). Two examples from this part are: "Parents insist on homework and help me with it" Item 11, and "Parents question my performance in school" Item 18. The third part was used to determine students' characteristics (Cathryn & Linda, 2004). Fifteen items (items 21 to 35) were used in this part. Two examples from this part are: "I can finish assignments by deadlines", Item 21, and "I arrange a place to study without distractions" Item 33. Each item was measured using a Likert scale that ranged from "strongly disagree" (1 point) to "strongly agree" (5 points). In addition, the questionnaire requested demographic information such as age, gender, GPA, mother's and father's highest education. Academic achievement was measured using student's GPA.

Participants

The study was conducted at Abu Dhabi District, United Arab Emirates (UAE). There are 23 high schools in Abu Dhabi District (11 for males and 12 for females). Eight schools were selected randomly (four males and four females) to participate in this study. A total of 388 students (193 males and 195 females) with average age of 16.5 years responded to the items of the instrument. Respondents were guaranteed confidentiality, and the instrument was filled in anonymously with no identification information.

Procedure

Reliability of each part of the instrument was assessed through calculating both the internal and the split-half reliability. An independent t-test was used to compare results between male and female on each variable. Relationship between motivation, family environment, student characteristics, and academic achievement were assessed by calculating simple correlations among these variables.

Results and Discussion

The internal reliability of each of the three scales in the instrument was estimated. Table 1 shows number of items, Cronbach's alpha, and split-half reliability for each scale. Considering that reliability is a function of number of items in an instrument and that number of items is relatively small, the three scales were considered internally reliable.

The information provided about the highest education of students' parents indicates that the majority of fathers (64.2%) and the majority of mothers (40.0%) have at least university degrees. As expected, fathers have higher education than mothers. The least percentage in both genders was in the College category. Table 2 summarizes parents' education in four categories. Research shows that parents can play an important role in strengthening their children's education. Wang, Wildman, & Calhoun (1996) indicate that parent education and encouragement are strongly related to improved student achievement. A study by Grissmer (1994), cited in WEAC, 2005, also found that parents' level of education was important factor affecting student achievement.

Student's level of motivation was assessed by averaging the responses of students on the items that make the scale after recoding negative items. The same was done to estimate parental influence and students' characteristics. Calculations were also breakdown by gender to assess differences between male and female students. Means and standard deviations of the students' responses on the three scales are shown in Table 3. All mean values for the three scales were above the theoretical average of each scale. Students' mean level of motivation (3.85) was less than the means of the other two scales: parental influence (4.23) and student's characteristics (4.16).

Academic achievement was assessed using students GPA. The overall average of students GPA was 81.66% and the standard deviation (SD) was 11.00. The average GPA for male students was 82.37% (SD = 10.86), while that of males was 80.95% (SD = 11.09).

Using independent t-test, the difference between males and females on achievement was not statistically significant ([t.sub.(380)] = 1.36, p = .21).

Results for male students on the three scales were similar to those of female students. To statistically check whether the differences between males and females are significant, an independent-test was used on each scale using (.01) level of significance. Differences on motivation and parental influence were found to be statistically not significant, while the difference between males and females on student's characteristics was significant (t= 2.91, p< .001). However, practically, this small difference could not be counted. Based on that, one can conclude that there are no gender differences on the three variables measured by the instrument. This result is not surprising given that students in both genders have come from the same culture and similar backgrounds. This could explain why students have the same perspective in viewing the questionnaire items regardless of their gender. Although potential gender differences in motivational orientation have been observed in several studies (e.g., Boggiano, Main, & Katz, 1991), in this study males and females are similar in all variables and especially achievement. This similarity made differences between males and females on the other variables very minor.

The relationship between motivation, family environment, student characteristics, and academic achievement were assessed by calculating simple correlations among these variables. Results are summarized in Table 4.

Student's motivation for learning is generally regarded as one of the most critical determinants of the success and quality of any learning outcome (Mitchell, 1992). In this study, the correlation between achievement and motivation was very small (.07). This result is consists with a study by Stipek and Ryan (1997) in which a weak relationship was observed between motivation and achievement. The researchers found that student's cognitive skills were far better predictors of end-of-the year achievement than motivation. In another study, Niehbur (1995) found that student motivation showed no significant effect on the relationship with academic achievement. He suggested that the elements of both school climate and family environment have a stronger direct impact on academic achievement.

Although the correlations between achievement and family environment (.15) and between achievement and student's characteristics (.16) were statically significant, these values were still practically small. Motivation and family environment were not highly correlated (.19). Cassidy and Lynn (1991) included a specific factor of the family's socioeconomic status, crowding, as an indicator of how being disadvantaged. They found that a less physically crowded environment, along with motivation and parental support, were associated with higher educational levels of children. Remarkably high correlation value (.34) was observed between motivation and students characteristic. Allen and Kickbush (1992) found that higher achieving students have high motivation characteristics. The highest correlation value (.59) was observed between family environment and students' characteristics. This result is on the line of a study of more than twelve hundred public school students in Wisconsin showed that students who are most successful academically tend to have parents who are demanding and who are actively involved in the education of their children (WEAC, 2005).

Appendix Survey

Motivation

1. I like hard work because it is a challenge

2. I work on problems to learn how to solve them

3. I like difficult problems because I enjoy trying to figure them out

4. When I make a mistake I would rather figure out the right answer by myself

5. I know whether or not I am doing well in school without grades

6. I would rather just learn what I have to in school

7. I like to learn things on my own that interest me

8. I like to go on to new work that's at a more difficult level

9. I ask questions in class because I want to learn new things

10. I think I should have a say in what work I do in school Family Environment

11. Parents insist on homework and help me with it

12. Parents proud of good grade

13. Parents find time to talk

14. Parents expect college degree

15. Parents reward good grades

16. Parents too busy to spend time with me

17. Parents understand my feelings

18. Parents question my performance in school

19. Parents enjoy doing things with me

20. Parents confident in my ability Student characteristics

21. I can finish assignments by deadlines

22. I can prepare for courses when there are other interesting things to do

23. I can concentrate on school subjects

24. I use appropriate resources to get information for class assignments

25. I can plan and organize my class work

26. I motivate my self to do my assignments

27. I can prioritize my time to complete my work for my classes

28. I reread the textbook when preparing for a test

29. I plan what I am doing to do before beginning a class project

30. I can summarize course content in my own words

31. I reread my summaries of course material when preparing for a test

32. I reread the notes I took in class when preparing for a test

33. I arrange a place to study without distractions

34. I fail to isolate myself from anything that distracts me

35. I study for my courses in a quiet room or area

References

Bahr, S., Hawks, R., & Wang, G. (1993). Family and religious influences on adolescent substance abuse. Youth and Society, 24, 443-465.

Boggiano, A. K., Main, D. S., & Katz, P. (1991). Mastery motivation in boys and girls: The role of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Sex Roles, 25, (9/10), 511-520.

Broussard, C. (2002). The relationship between classroom motivation and academic achievement in first and third grades. Master thesis, Louisiana State University.

Cassidy, T., & Lynn, R. (1991). Achievement motivation, educational attainment, cycles of disadvantage and social competence: Some longitudinal data. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 1-12.

Cathryn, A. & Linda, S. (2004). Factors contributing to the academic achievement of pharmacy students. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 68, (1), 1-8.

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Ferguson, R. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence of how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation, 28, (Summer 1991): 465-98.

Fincham, F. D., & Cain, K. M. (1986). Learned helplessness in humans: A developmental analysis. Developmental Review, 6, 301-333.

Fortier, M. S., Vallerand, R. J., & Guay, F. (1995). Academic motivation and school performance: Toward a structural model. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 257-274.

Goldberg, M. D. (1994). A developmental investigation of intrinsic motivation: Correlates, causes, and consequences in high ability students. Dissertation Abstract International, 55-04B, 1688.

Gottfried, A.E. (1990). Academic intrinsic motivation in young elementary school children. Journal of Education Psychology 82(3), 525-538.

Grissmer, et al. (1994). http://www.weac. org/resource/primer/variable.htm

Hammer, B. (2003). ETS identifies affecting student achievement-Washington update.

Harter, S. (1983). Developmental perspectives on the self-system. In P.H. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology, 4, 275-385.

Howse, R. B. (1999). Motivation and self-regulation as predictors of achievement in economically disadvantaged young children. Dissertation Abstract International, 60-06B, 2985.

Kushman, J. W., Sieber, C., & Harold, K. P. (2000). This isn't the place for me: School dropout. American Counseling Association (pp. 471-507).

Mitchell, J. V. Jr. (1992). Interrelationships and predictive efficacy for indices of intrinsic, extrinsic, and self-assessed motivation for learning. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 25 (3), 149-155.

Niebuhr, K. (1995). The effect of motivation on the relationship of school climate, family environment, and student characteristics to academic achievement. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 393 202).

Peng, S. S., & Wright, D. (1994). Explanation of academic achievement of Asian -American students. Journal of Educational Research, 87 (6), 346-352.

Phillips, M. (998). Family background, parenting practices, and the black-white test score gap. The black-white test score gab, Washington, D.C., Brooking Institution Press.

Rollins, B. C., & Thomas, D. L. (1979). Parental support, power, and control techniques in the socialization of children. In W. R. Burr, R. Hill, F. I. Nye, & I. L. Reiss (Eds.), Contemporary theories about the family, Vol. L (pp. 317-364). New York: The Free Press, Macmillan.

Schiefele, U., Krapp, A., & Winteler, A. (1992). Interest as a predictor of academic achievement: A meta-analysis of research. The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 183-212). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2002). The development of academic self-efficacy. Development of achievement motivation (pp. 15-32). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Stipek, D., & Ryan, R. (1997). Economically disadvantaged preschoolers: Ready to learn nut further to go. Developmental Psychology, 33(4), 711-723.

Wang, J., Wildman, L., & Calhoun, G. (1996). The relationship between parental influences and student achievement in seventh grade mathematics. School Science and Mathematics, 96 (8), 395-400.

WEAC, 2005. Variables affecting student achievement. Available at http://www.weac.org/ resource/primer/variable.htm.

Weiner, B. (1990). History of motivation research in education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 616-622.

Ibtesam Halawah, Ph.D., Ajman University of Science & Technology, United Arab Emirates.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Ibtesam Halawah at ibtesamh@hotmail.com.
Table 1
Internal Reliability of the Three Scales Used in the Instrument

 Internal
 Number of reliability Split-half
Scale items (alpha) reliability

Motivation 10 .52 .47
Parental Influences 10 .81 .76
Students' Characteristics 15 .78 .70

Table 2
Parents' Education

Highest education Fathers Mothers

Bachelor degree or higher 64.2% 40.6%
College 2.3% 7.1%
High school 12.6% 23.5%
Less than high school 19.1% 28.8%

Table 3
Means and Standard Deviations of Motivations, Parental Influence,
and Students' Characteristics

Scale Total Males Females

 Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD

Motivation 3.85 .42 3.90 .38 3.80 .44
Parental Influences 4.23 .58 4.24 .62 4.22 .54
Student's Characteristics 4.16 .47 4.11 .52 4.26 .40

Table 4
Pearson Product Moment Correlations among Achievement,
Motivation, Family Environment, and Student Characteristics

 Achievement Motivation

Achievement 1:00
Motivation .07 1:00
Family environment .15 * .19 *
Students' .16 * .34 **
characteristics

 Family Students'
 environment characteristics

Achievement
Motivation
Family environment 1:00
Students' .59 ** 1:00
characteristics

*: significant at .05, **: significant at .01
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Author:Halawah, Ibtesam
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
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Date:Jun 1, 2006
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