Academic Motivation: Ethnic Teaching in Dutch Schools


In Dutch schools as in most other European schools, the ethnic divergence of the pupils has made teaching a greater exercise over some time. The migration of non-European minority people into Europe from the 1960s onwards has posed a different challenge to the teachers. Authors, Andrissen, Phalet & Lens (2006), observe that with the variation of the motivating factors particularly with the ethnic diversity noticed now in schools, validating the Future Time Perspective Theory along with the Self Determination theory becomes imperative. The study undertaken by them, suggests that the future does have an important role to play in motivating the students, their goals, and their performance in the schools. In Self Determination Theory, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are differentiated. The same idea is extended to goals too. The intrinsic future goals and extrinsic future goals are not easily decipherable according to them. However, future goals have a perceptible impact on school performance in Belgian students as is quoted from Lens et al (2002).

The research was conducted on 279 minority students in Dutch schools. An appropriate instrument was designed for the purpose and the results were analyzed using standard statistical methods. Structural equation modeling was employed to simulate the motivation of the students as affected by their future goals. The students were checked for Positive Perceived Instrumentality. The results indicate an increase in the motivation and adaptive learning of both the minority and non-minority students. It was also observed that task motivation is more pronounced when future goals are strong. The finding of the research team, that the future goals are greatly motivating the students to perform better and also in ensuring better goal-setting into the future, makes way for substantial growth. This is also reflected in other countries and students of ethnic origins.

Malaysian and American Students

A research study was conducted with the American and Malaysian students on the motivation factors as well as on the other motives of study including thinking, competing, and desire to excel. The research carried out by Meera Komararaju, Steven Karau, and Ramayah (2007), was done using the instrument, Academic Motivations Inventory. This was administered to 172 students in the United States of whom, 90 percent were between 18 and 23 years of age. There was also an ethnic spread in the sample with people drawn from blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics. In Malaysia, 208 undergraduates were taken from a large university in Western Malaysia. The mean age in the sample was 23 years. These people were administered with the instrument. Academic Motivations Inventory, as proposed by Moen and Doyle (1977) was taken for this purpose.

Based on the information and data collected, an ANOVA was performed to ascertain the variance between the races and the countries. It was found that the Malaysian students showed a better motivation on seven of the sixteen subscales that make up the complete AMI scale. There was a higher academic motivational level among the Malaysian students when compared to the Americans. In addition to this, the results also indicate that the racial and ethnic differences also bring in changes in the perception of the students. The researchers also conclude that culture plays an important role in deciding on the motivation levels observed in the students across ethnicity and countries. There was also the approval and affiliation factor which was also motivating the students and was observed more prominently in the Malaysian students. Apart from culture, results also show that the person’s self-efficacy also plays an important role in deciding on the motivation of the student.

Self-Efficacy in Academic Motivation

Self-efficacy is defined as the ‘people’s judgment of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances’ (quoted from Bandura 1986)’. It has been held valid that self-efficacy has itself-efficacy on several factors that influence motivation of the person. According to Schunk(1989), the self-efficacy function of aptitude and prior experience. This also has an important role to play in setting goals. The choice of goals, whether it is easy or difficult is all a part of the self-efficacy. Allowing students to set their own goals enhances self efficacy. Self-efficacy is also found to influence the information process the ing capability of the students and the learning strategies that need to be adopted for the purpose. In addition, the student’s choice of activities, effort, and persistence are all decided by self-efficacy according to Bandura (1986). This has been researched by Schunk (1991) and he presents that self-efficacy is influenced by several factors including, perceived control, expectations, values, attributions, and self-concept.

Several models help in visualizing for the student and were found to have a positive impact on self-efficacy. The research by Schunk points out that there is more to motivation, not just self-efficacy alone. Of course, it does play an important role in motivating the students to work and perform better in their academic coursework. Lack of self-efficacy reflects underperformance and lack of persistence. Whereas, it was found that the students persist in the learning activities only because the teachers are persisting about it. And self-efficacy translates itself to motivation. In addition to these, positive psychology has a strong impact on the motivation factor of the students. This has been established by repeated research in the specific area.

Positive Psychology and Academic Motivation

The psychoanalytic perspective indicates that academic motivation is influenced by positive psychology. The research was carried out to identify the positive psychology constructs and how they impact the motivation in academic studies of students at various levels. Students have varied goals set depending upon their capabilities and this is more in line with the optimistic thinking that is in them. The positive psychology that the students have reflected in their motivation level and the extent of academic work they do. Frank Pajeres of the Emory University, says that the achievement goals, expectancy beliefs, and value were the factors that affect positive psychology variables. This positive psychology, he reveals in his paper, has a positive impact on the performance of the students. His research also identified that the expectancy and value constructs in the students were associated with the optimism they had. Optimism is one of the signature constructs of Positive Psychology.

The research was conducted on 529 students in the middle school to check their level of positive psychology and the impact of the same on their performance. Students’ GPAs were taken from their performances in the previous semester to the study. For assessing the achievement goals, a scale similar to the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Survey (PALS) was employed. The self-Efficacy scale was adopted from Bandura’s Children’s Multidimensional Self-Efficacy Scale, which was also a Likert scale and the results were taken for analysis from these. Based on these factors it was concluded that there is a continuing and ongoing effort required to get the psychological map of the students in proper perspective. Some numerous factors and variables affect the motivation of the students. Using all these variables, several researchers have built models to check the validity of their empirical work.

Big Two Factor Theory and Model

The Big Two factor theory and model was proposed by Marsh et al (2003) based on the Big Five Factory theory. The eight motivation constructs that make up part of the motivation constructs, ego, competition, mastery, intrinsic, cooperation, individual, approach success, and avoid failure. These eight were considered to be the most dominant of the constructs that propel motivation in students specifically in their academic work. To work out the right kind of factors that influence and bring forward these constructs, a sample of 606 high achieving primary school students was taken in Australia. The following instrument was used by the researchers to conduct the survey and know the motivational levels in the primary school students: School Motivation Questionnaire. This questionnaire involved both quantitative data that could be used for further statistical analysis as well as interview questions that would provide qualitative answers to the issues raised.

Based on the survey that was conducted by the researchers and on the analysis conducted thereafter, invariance was noticed by them in groups over time. They also arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. Confirmatory Factor Analyses (CFA) could hold the validity of the 8 scales in the course of the research and analysis. They fit the model reasonably closely and therefore, could be taken as proof of the fitment of the model.
  2. The factors were grouped under higher order and lower order factors and it was found that the higher-order factors did have a major role to play in the motivation factors of all students. Gender differences were also found below.

This reflects in all of the factors that make up academic motivation. That is all the more true with the self-efficacy construct noted among the factors.

Self Efficacy study in Korean Schools

A study oriented towards self-efficacy in South Korean schools was carried out by researcher Mimi Bong (2004). This study worked on multiple school subjects and the motivation of students across these subjects. The variations in their interest and motivation to learn varied school subjects have also been studied by the researcher. The study took self-efficacy items that could form a sub-scale: Task value, achievement goal orientations, attribution, and motivational beliefs toward general school learning. Suitable measures in every one of these factors were worked out and produced for administration. This instrument was administered to a group of 389 freshmen girl students in a school. With almost all, the school students being in similar economic and social background variations due to those are not valid. Self-efficacy variables were obtained four times during the research period and the same was used for further analysis.

The study revealed that every motivational construct is associated with a different degree of generality across domains and contexts. That is to say, the academic motivation of the students depends on the subject matter and not just on other factors alone.

Motivation is the Enabler

Most of the academically well-performing students are also very well motivated says the research outcome of Linnerbrink and Pintrinch (2002). The researchers also point out that motivation is not contributed by a limited number of components. It is influenced by several parameters and constructs though many of them go unidentified and unrelated. Empirical relationships are not suggested but relationships between the constructs identified by the researchers and motivating factors are taken into consideration. Four key components are proposed for the purpose. These include self-efficacy, attributions, intrinsic motivation, and achievement goals. The research conducted is on each of these four attributes and also uses assumptions such as these. Motivation is not a stable trait of an individual and it is bound to get altered depending on situational, contextual, and other needs of the location and time. Similarly, motivation is not just formulated by the environment in school or classroom, not by the cultural or demographic characteristics; it is also formulated by the person’s regulation, thinking, and behavior.

Adaptive attributions are a great motivator for success. The attributions theory substantiates these opinions built over by the authors. Similarly, research on intrinsic motivation that forms the basis for building the person’s motivation and interest towards academic excellence has also been substantiated. A substantial quantum of research also substantiates this assumption. Adaptive goal orientations are also enablers of success and several pieces of research have gone into the facts of several cases. Of course, a study of gifted students would throw more light on the way motivation works in them as well as in others.

Motivation in gifted students

In the case of gifted students, specifically in the middle and high school levels, the reasons for their motivation have been studied by several researchers, including, Philips and Lindsay (2006). They studied the performance and motivation levels of fifteen gifted students whom they marked out from the school. To ensure that the study is more widespread, five secondary schools from England were chosen for the study. They interviewed the students as well as their parents using a set of questions. Most of the questions and answers were qualitative and these answers were then qualitatively analyzed. These results were then used for further analysis and drawing out the needed conclusions.

Students felt that they did not have enough challenges in the classroom. This would bring about slackness in their performance or rather inhibit their growth. However, none of the students said, there was a complete lack of challenge. Every subject posed some challenges but it was more in fits and starts rather than a continuous learning exercise. Family support also was found to be providing a whole lot of motivation to the students. This was an essential component that the research came out with. Contrary to the belief that the fear of failure was the motivating factor among students, they were willing to accept tough challenges so that they can perform better and without the fear of failure. All this indicates that the student gets motivated both by intrinsic reasons as well as extrinsic but at the same time; every gifted student was appropriately motivated. However, there is a larger role for the intrinsic motivation to play in the overall performance of the student rather than the rest.

Intrinsic motivation Stimulation

The major stimulator for high achievement is intrinsic motivation. In many problem-solving cases, intrinsic motivation is the major cause for high achievement. According to Song and Grabowski (2006), one of the major motivating factors that guide the students to persist with problem-solving is the intrinsic motivation that they have. Of course, the students who achieve are more goal-oriented and they tend to have a better orientation towards persistence that is essential for most of the problem-solving efforts and in performance betterment. The experiment done by the researchers included 90 students from ethnically more or less homogenous groups comprising 96% European Americans. While the first part of the survey was to have the students answer a self-efficacy pre-test, the second part comprised of their capability to solve problems. This was tested by providing them a problem which they had to solve under the modified learning phases introduced in a tutorial in line with the systems suggested by Barrows (1986).

Based on the outcome of the pretest and that of the subsequent web-based testing the researchers did, they carried out an ANOVA on the data. The students’ monitoring and observation skills in addition to their problem-solving skills were also judged. The results have substantiated their hypothesis that the goal orientation is furthered when students participate in such treatment groups. This also substantiates that the students who were in learning-oriented studies had greater motivation when compared to performance-oriented learning. However, this does not mean that greater mental effort from the student would result in better performance in academics.

Motivation, Effort, and Performance

Motivation is the one that could be taken as the major cause of performance in academics and better performance. But at the same time, it is not just the effort that the person takes which would provide the needed results. Though the person spends more mental effort on his or her work, says Paas et al (2005), the results and the performance would depend more on the other factors rather than the effort alone. The efficiency of the work as in any other case is dependent not on the amount of time that the person spends on the learning exercise. Instead, it seems to stem from the amount of motivation the person has in the subject.

The authors of the paper indicate that the Cognitive load theorists posit that the entire performance will depend on the work and the effort was taken by the student and therefore, a higher-performing person has to spend more effort at it. Contrary to this belief, the authors point out that along with effort, motivation is also important. The extent of motivation that the person has will have more impact on the overall performance of the person along with the effort taken by him or her. According to them, the mental efforts, as well as performance, are interconnected through several constructs that allow them to perform better. The adaptive training research has to combine the way these factors work including the motivational constructs along with the mental efforts of the students. Only then will it be possible for the researcher to get a clearer picture of how these happen together. This would bring into focus the quality of motivation and not just motivation.

Quality of motivation

What makes a motivation in the student of higher quality? The method that is adopted by the student to learn and educate him will depend on the nature of motivation he has in the subject of interest. Both intrinsic and extrinsic goals, according to Vansteenkiste, Lens, and Deci (2006), play an important role in deciding on the Self-determination the student espouses. Many of these constructs that form the self-determination theory either help or hinder the working of the motivation as well as the performance of the individual in their schools. However, it is also noted that there are lots of differences between the intrinsic goals that the students have within them and the goals that they tell the school. It is found that those students who have intrinsic goals set are also performing better in their academic performance.

Several goal framing field results are brought to the fore by the researchers. These were gathered by them during the studies carried out. For all the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that is needed in the students, it was found that intrinsic motivation seems to produce deeper motivation and engagement in learning activities as well as in other academically related activities; whereas, the extrinsic motivation was not in the picture when such deep learning activities are sought. Though extrinsic motivation is a stimulator for intrinsic motivation, it does not by itself produce the deep engagement that is needed to perform better in education and academic excellence. Of course, together, they seem to stimulate a similar type of impact on the psychology of the students. They seem to engage more in conceptual learning, deeper engagement in learning activities, and higher persistence at learning activities. In addition, the knowledge of why they learn rather than dumb learning seems to add more value to their motivation.

Why do they learn?

The motivation in the students if know why they learn and in what way learning is going to affect their lives in the future and the results that they will gain, will all provide appropriate motivation to the people. To study the motivation theory, a sample of 184 nursing students were taken from their first-year program and an instrument was administered to them. The study was oriented towards checking out the goal orientation, study habits, motivation, cognitive strategies, and their performance. During the research phase, the questionnaires were administered to these students and their responses were noted.

The results of the study indicated that the motivational factors and the instrumentality are related. Cognitive measures and other achievement factors also were found to be related to the motivational constructs as well as the instrumentality factors identified during the research process. By suitably tuning the internal regulation as well as the utility of the course, the motivational constructs could be bettered. At the same time, better cognitive strategies giving better studying habits and therefore performance results can also be realized using the outcome of the study conducted by the authors. Studies by researchers in linking the performance to the extrinsic rewards and in the utility of the course produced the opposite results and did not end in motivating the students involved. And they conclude that instrumentality is a differential influence in the motivational, cognitive and behavioral habits of the students. Though this sample was taken out of the nursing students, the overall conclusion could relate to any cross-section of students. Motivation as in the case of any other group is very important for nursing students as well.

Motivation in nursing

Appropriate tools must be used to motivate students from all walks of education. However, it is more so in the case of nursing students. Nurses, educators, and clinicians need to motivate nursing students throughout their course, according to Fiona Murphy (Sep 2006). It is known that there are several factors within the education, learning, teaching, and common sense for the students to learn and get motivated by. While learning is a self-empowering method, there must be an underlying belief that adults are naturally self-directing and would motivate themselves to a great extent. However, it has to be noted that in the case of students, particularly the nursing students, the motivation factor is not just self-motivated. There should effort from every one of the stakeholders and players to ensure that the motivation continues in the students’ minds to continue with high performance.

Educators should build on nurses’ willingness and desire to learn more. This should be encouraged and motivated further. The student’s drive is very important in the learning exercise. The case study taken by Fiona Murphy could further her career by adopting the learning path. That could build up the confidence level of the person and therefore, her overall motivational level. Finally, the self-actualization that is needed by every individual when one becomes what one is capable of becoming indicates that she has reached the final stages of her desired level. It is important that adult educators need to consider these motivating factors since there are lots of differences in the way adults learn and children do. Whatever be the condition of learning, it has been found that future goals and goal setting generally enhances learning to a great extent.

Future goals

Karen Phalet, Andriessen, and Lens (Mar 2004) indicate that it is important for every one of the students to have a future goal in place. Goal setting and a sense of achievement are important constructs in motivational theory. This is irrespective of cultures and ethnic origins. It is particularly important in those cases where there is an ethnic minority that has to necessarily perform if they will have to go for greater motivation. The instrumentality of the future goals in the school students seems to have positive as well as negative impacts on the ethnic minorities in the school. The internal and external regulations seem to take their importance once the future goals are set and the students also adapt to them.

During the research, Phalet et al (Mar 2004) say, they found that the minorities and the ethnic people are optimistic about the future opportunities in the country and the world they live in. That is possible, the reason why they migrated in the first place. This optimism reflects in the way they work and the way they are motivated to work. There is a strong sense of future orientation in their studies. That is possibly the reason why once the future goals are set; these people are found to perform better and as a better of fact better than many of the local people. The educational expense in a minority family is pretty high and this is another reason for the commitment of the student towards education. Goal theory and findings of the other self-development theories have been taken into consideration to bring to the fore the growth of the people and their interest in the learning process


The analysis of all these motivation papers brings to focus important conclusions:

  1. Motivation in students is multi-construction dependent and is not limited to a few.
  2. Motivation is a major contributor to the performance of the student in the classroom and academically. The effort itself is not motivation.
  3. It is important the more understanding of motivation is done in the future and better processes are implemented for the purpose.